The Denial of Death ...Accepted

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

Moderators: Clemsy, Martin_Weyers, Cindy B.

Locked
chloemarie
Associate
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2008 12:25 am

The Denial of Death ...Accepted

Post by chloemarie » Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:58 pm

I would like to start a topic on Death and the denial our society currently displays toward it. How do you think this attitude could be changed so that both the dying and the greiving will be benefitted mentally physically spiritually and emotionally. Also what role do you think modern technology and an increasingly globalized society will play in changing this view
Waka
Associate
Posts: 163
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 3:29 am
Location: somewere lost

Post by Waka » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:41 am

This thought actually hit me when I saw a little bit of the bucket list. The wife of morgan freeman wanting him to get a second opinion on his cancer. He didnt want to and his wife was really upset.

For me if I die tomorrow I will have some regrets, but I will be okay with it. I realize all people die and the point of life is to make the most of it. I really wish I could meet a girl like this so she can drop all the BS. The west would be a better place if everyone realized this.
Better than a thousand useless words is one word that gives peace.- Buddha<br>Let yourself be free. :-)
Neoplato
Associate
Posts: 3907
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:02 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Post by Neoplato » Thu Jan 15, 2009 1:53 pm

I would like to start a topic on Death and the denial our society currently displays toward it.
I guess by “denial of death” you mean the fact that the west refuses to believe that death is a part of life? I think too many people in the west view death as a final end which they ignore until they reach a certain age and then they panic. I’ve come to believe that death is an illusion because the body is not the source of life, the source of life transcends to the body.

I like to think of this as a leaf on a tree. The leaf knows it’s alive, but somehow can’t see the tree. At the end of the season, the leaf is scared from falling off the tree, but eventually has to let go. However, the tree is still alive and will give life to other leaves. Where was the source of life? In the leaf that fell, or in the tree? If the leaf just had realized it was just an extension of the tree, I’m sure it would have felt much better.
chloemarie
Associate
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2008 12:25 am

Post by chloemarie » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:32 pm

Im glad you guys have such an accepting view towards death :) However you seem to represent a small minority of thought in our present society. Death is for the most part denied in the West by this I mean that as a whole we do not treat death or the dying with the respect they deserve instead we relegate death to the back ,we dont fully acceopt the process whether we are the dying or the greived. In the East the attitude is much more accepting in that Buddhism and Hinduism ( and even some sorts of Judaism) embrace rather than run away from death. But I think the problem lies in the attitude rather than the mythology of the West. While western religion is certaintly not death friendly, I don't think that is the only problem. Instead the problem is with the views towards death that are the products of western religion but are not irreversable. Over a long period of time the west has fostered an unhealthy view of death. But Death is a part of Life, a very important part of life in that we all will pass into this stage whether we like it or not. Which is why i think the attitude our society has toward it must change. Ideallistically a funeral would be beneficial to the greiver in allowing them to accept and reintegrate all the while allowing for and encouraging the release of greif. It falls short of this ideal and that is due to the attitude as a whole western society takes toward it which is denial. The change to a more death - embracing culture needs to be made internally as well as externally.So how do you think these views can change? is it a mythological, or a societal problem at the root.?
Neoplato
Associate
Posts: 3907
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:02 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Post by Neoplato » Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:06 pm

I’m glad you guys have such an accepting view towards death However you seem to represent a small minority of thought in our present society.
That’s why we probably wound up here.
Instead the problem is with the views towards death that are the products of western religion but are not irreversable.
It is reversible on a small scale. Many of us here (including myself) are ex-Roman Catholics.
So how do you think these views can change? is it a mythological, or a societal problem at the root.?
I think it is all internal and depends on the person. People must use their ability to logically reason in order to understand death as a part of life. Myths provide the stories, people must develop their ability to understand them. Unfortunately, we are pre-programmed by society, which is an extra-hurdle in developing your reasoning abilities. If people didn’t have to overcome this extra-hurdle, I think more people would come to the understanding of what death actually is.
boringguy
Associate
Posts: 459
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 1:36 am
Location: Idaho

Post by boringguy » Sat Jan 17, 2009 12:38 am

Hi chloemarie, all,

I think our perception and reactions related to death, like many things in our society, are largely the result of ego that is quite inept at dealing with mystery. Death and beyond being perhaps the ultimate mystery, then it's not to surprizing that our first inclination would be to sweep the dealing with death and grief, under the rug.

Grief is however, a heros journey as surely as any other. A call, a discovery, and a return. An individual experience that no one else, however well intentioned, can do for you. It's true that many of those well intentioned others have no experience and understanding of dealing with death and grief, and so, often the best they can offer is genuine compassion, and the least is to help you sweep it under the rug so it can all seemingly be gone for both you and them. As a heros journey one must find the strength to answer the call, and you are right, in many ways western society isn't very helpful in understanding even that.

Eight years ago I lost someone very dear to me and every year since on the anniversary, I take the day, or at least part of it, for myself with that. This year that happened just a few days ago, and was I think the first time I was able to just truely celebrate the life that was and is, rather than grieve the life that isn't.

In that perhaps an insight into growth of individual and then hence societal perception. There is very little we can know for certain, but as we see ourself reflected through the eyes of those around us, we can know whether we made time and space better for our having been here. In all of the bigger picture, that might be as much certainty as we can really have. It frees us to realize that we can in a very real way, live in their light, not in their shadow, and others can one day in ours as well. A realization that comes with spiritual growth and being.

It might be a bit much at this point to ask of tribe to understand this, which then just leaves us with the community of individuals. Hopefully we're able to find space there that allows and promotes our own growth process. That being said, I surely wouldn't discourage any effort in a societal sense with regard to death and grief, in promoting individual understanding, appreciation, and celebration of what is rather than what isn't.

I guess after a bit of rambling I'm really just agreeing with Campbell here, in promoting understanding and self permission of ones own hero journey, in whatever individual direction that might take, as the best endevor of the moment. Our institutions tend to be the product of our individual desire and necessity for the security provided in allowing those institutions to define ones responsibilities, in that creating mutually selfsustaining roles. But if that doesn't work for you, then that leaves one at 'be the change you want to see'. And changed individuals create changed institutions, which create changed individuals. So maybe promoting that change, just starts with promoting the individual hero journey.


p.s. You might also find some food for thought in the 'why not know', and the 'a good death' threads, of the Exploring Your Personal Mythology forum.


bg
_____________
Consider it civic duty to push the envelope
Neoplato
Associate
Posts: 3907
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:02 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Post by Neoplato » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:45 pm

every new beginning is some other beginnings end.."

-Semisonic, "closing time"
ingooglewetrust
Associate
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:48 pm

Post by ingooglewetrust » Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:52 pm

Death - been there, done that. Both Heaven and Hell are way boring. Believe me, you don't want to die until absolutely necessary. Don't listen to the writers of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the NDE'ers, but try to make a U-turn as soon as you can. The field of Duality (Good and Evil) is much much more interesting, Duh!, that's why it was created in the first place.
Neoplato
Associate
Posts: 3907
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:02 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Post by Neoplato » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:31 am

ingooglewetrust wrote:
Death - been there, done that. Both Heaven and Hell are way boring.
I take it you've been to both places? :o What's the architecture like?
jonsjourney
Associate
Posts: 3191
Joined: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:24 pm
Location: Earth

Post by jonsjourney » Fri Jan 30, 2009 1:31 pm

Perhaps we would be well served to look to a great culture on this topic.

Native American culture has much to offer on the topic of death. If I were to boil it down to one word, I would describe the view as organismic. Life and death are a circular process. We come from the earth and return to the earth. By returning to the earth, we give back some of what we have taken in life. This idea of being in accord with nature runs contrary to so much of our western thinking.

Look at our western philosophy. It is based, largely, on individualistic, platonic systems of thought. Take it easy NEO!~ It's all good! :D

The problem with this individualistic view is that it places us (humans) OVER nature. This is mere illusion. Sure, we can have a huge impact on nature, look at global warming. But we must be careful here. It is possible that we are in a warming cycle and that while the impact of emissions is having an effect, it is not a big as our gigantic egos would like to think. Sure, we are pushing species to extinction, but if Darwin is right, could it work any other way?

Going back to death. Look at what we do to avoid it. We build religions which will provide us with eternal life. We erect monuments to our lives upon the ground and treat them as sacred while denying precious space for living people. We desperately cling to medicinal techniques in order to delay death. We buy into snake-oil treatments in order to delay death. Some people freeze their bodies so they can be brought back to life later. We bring forth children to further our name. We write books and songs to leave our mark.

What are we really doing in all this? In my view, we are missing the moment. In Native American myths you will find many stories about Coyote. Coyote never sees what is right in front of him. He is too busy hoping and wishing for 'wrong things' to notice what is right in front of him. In Platonic terms, he is Thales....so busy admiring and thinking about the stars that he does not see the well right in front of him and falls in. It is the sin of self absorption. Individualism run a muck!

Perhaps we cannot learn from this. Maybe we are too far gone down the road of the subjective experience. Modern humans can 'control' most every aspect of their lives, at least in the West. We do not have to take in anything other than what we want to see and hear. This only further removes us from our role in nature. We can whistle by the graveyard confident in our empirical propositional knowledge. It seems we will try just about anything to deny death.
"He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." -Douglas Adams
Neoplato
Associate
Posts: 3907
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:02 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Post by Neoplato » Fri Jan 30, 2009 5:05 pm

Look at our western philosophy. It is based, largely, on individualistic, platonic systems of thought. Take it easy NEO!
My disclaimer.....many movies are "based" on books. Some of which have no resemblence to what the author wrote.
User avatar
noman
Associate
Posts: 670
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2006 8:26 am

Post by noman » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:16 pm

In the East the attitude is much more accepting in that Buddhism and Hinduism (and even some sorts of Judaism) embrace rather than run away from death… The change to a more death - embracing culture needs to be made internally as well as externally. So how do you think these views can change? Is it a mythological, or a societal problem at the root?

- chloemarie
Hello Chloemarie and all.

I came of age in the 70s. One of the few books that I’ve kept with me all these years is:

The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker, 1973

It’s a challenging book, with a lot of intellectual ideas to relish. But the author doesn't drive home a single point to the conclusion of his book. He uses Kierkegaard and Freud as two examples of how to deal with the human condition and particularly the problem of death. In the final chapter the question is asked, ‘What is the heroic individual?’ It cuts right to the heart of the modern problem of multiple mythologies and value relativism (without using those terms). But the most important message I got from this book was establishing a relationship between psychology and religion. Psychology grew out of religion the way Protestantism grew out of Catholicism. And the pressing issue in the 70s that I think is still with us is that psychology and science can’t address the biggest problem we face, that being the problem of our mortality.


I don’t believe Easterners have an advantage over us Westerners concerning death. According to Becker, we must live, all of us, with the nagging and often suppressed knowledge that we are living in a hall of doom. And what seems like normal, healthy behavior, (as JonsJourney has already pointed out), the acquisition of status, the collecting of material wealth, the creation of artworks, the begetting children, and the naming of physical objects such as buildings, schools, and airports after the deceased, is really part of our way of dealing with this ultimate problem.
He told another man, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead. But you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

- Luke 9:59-9:60
While this may sound like the most callous statement ever made by a spiritual leader, I interpret it as saying that a person’s life work, if it is taken seriously, is more important than dwelling on those no longer with us. And he’s got a point. Anyone who has experienced the death of someone very close them knows that there can be a temporary suspension of life among the living – as if a survivor must spend a little time in a coffin as well. And who is to say that this all too human behavior is a denial or an acceptance of death?

Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, and his uncle turned stepfather, give Hamlet similar advice as Jesus gave in Luke 9:60.
QUEEN GERTRUDE

Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

KING CLAUDIUS

'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father:
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound
In filial obligation for some term
To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever
In obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief;
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschool'd:
For what we know must be and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd: whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse till he that died to-day,
'This must be so.' We pray you, throw to earth
This unprevailing woe, and think of us

- Hamlet act 1 scene 2
Then we learn that Hamlet’s father died less than two months earlier and that his uncle and mother married just one month earlier. I’d say the man has a right to be a little upset. And he spends a great deal of time philosophizing, not just on death, but on the meaning of life as well. This is the paradox of the human condition: the denial of death can be as well a denial of life, and the acceptance of death can be as well an acceptance of life, even as life and death oppose each other, as light opposes darkness, and sound opposes silence.

In her famous book, On Death and Dying Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains the rituals of placing stones on the grave as a way of keeping the body down, and the 21 gun salute echoes rituals of old when arrows were shot into the air to ward off the malevolent spirits. There is a certain fear we have about the dead. In horror films, zombies that rise from the dead always try to kill the living. I’d like just for once to see one of these zombies fresh from the grave grab a beer, sit down on the sofa and channel surf. But this death wish of the dead upon the living is a projection our attitude of being threatened by them.

Yet every culture pays homage to the dead and dying in some way. But there is this ambivalence about it. We will always deny death to a certain extent because part of us is always saying ‘let the dead bury the dead – life is for the living’. But at the same time we will always respect the dead and dying because, as the poet puts it:
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

- John Donne (1572 -1631)
I don’t know the right way to deal with death and dying. I don’t think anyone does. I only know that death has a way of bringing out the very, very best in us - and also, the very, very worst.

- NoMan
User avatar
romansh
Associate
Posts: 2277
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:25 am
Location: In the woods, BC, near US border
Contact:

Post by romansh » Sat Jan 31, 2009 11:13 pm

I think there are (at least) two aspects to this:

1) The memes we carry whether it is for an everlasting soul, nothingness or something else, have come from our environment; but eventually our meme(s) towards death impacts on our attidude towards life. Just as an aside I have heard convincing arguments that the concept of life and death is essentially false.

2) There is a biochemical aspect to grief. At the very least we are a bag of chemicals. This realization (and acceptance?) makes dealing with grief an interesting process.

Any thoughts?
Neoplato
Associate
Posts: 3907
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:02 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Post by Neoplato » Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:35 am

I'm not familiar with the concept of "memes", so I looked it up on Wikipedia....and it makes no sense to me. To me it sounds like a virus or "cooties". Why isn't this just part of the socialization process?
I have heard convincing arguments that the concept of life and death is essentially false.
I wouldn't say "false", but more of an illusion. A leaf will fall from a tree, but the tree still stands.
jonsjourney
Associate
Posts: 3191
Joined: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:24 pm
Location: Earth

Post by jonsjourney » Sun Feb 01, 2009 1:18 pm

I'm not familiar with the concept of "memes", so I looked it up on Wikipedia....and it makes no sense to me. To me it sounds like a virus or "cooties". Why isn't this just part of the socialization process?
'Memes' is a pretty fascinating way of looking at transmitting social and cultural ideas and survival techniques. Just think of a meme as the same thing as a gene, but rather than transmitting the cellular information which makes up your physical body, they transmit ideas and culture.

Religion is a meme. It does not have a physical structure like a gene, but it is transmitted from generation to generation much like a gene is through evolution by natural selection. Those with the most effective memes for survival tend to succeed. So, the Heaven's Gate cult is gone (presumably riding in the spaceship hidden in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet), while the Christian religion goes on.

I suppose it does sound a bit like cooties or a virus, but even if memes are not literally real, which is up for debate, they do serve to help illustrate one theory of how ideas and culture are transmitted over long periods of time and, conversely, why some are not. Are they not mythological in this respect? Hmmm...

Personally, I like Jung's collective unconscious better, but that is a completely subjective statement. There is absolutely no physical evidence of a collective unconscious, but (for me) the idea is fascinating and certainly worth exploring.
"He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." -Douglas Adams
Locked