Monday, 18 January 2010

in my end is my beginning

In recent years, I've learned a great deal about the variety of ways people deal with losing someone close to them; it's been moving, informative and - I hope this doesn't sound exploitative - endlessly fascinating. I want to try to share some of the thoughts this experience is giving rise to.

Organising and leading funeral ceremonies has really speeded up the development of my thinking about human mortality - not least, of course, my own. As we move away from childhood and youth, we naturally become more aware of the fact that our lives - yours, mine - will end. If we live through this growing awareness instead of trying to ignore it, it will enrich our lives.

I hope I may write things that help recently bereaved people, but I'm not a counsellor - CRUSE are the people for that. It's likely I'll pass on any sensible thoughts about the practicalities of funerals, but there is a lot of advice on the net already about How To Run A Funeral, The Good Funeral Guide etc, and much of it looks very useful. I want to take the branch lines, not the main intercity routes, and see if any of you out there find these journeys as interesting and rewarding as I do.

I think this is ultimately a serious topic, and I don't mean in the obvious sense. It may be that one cause for some of our social ills is that very many of us don't know how to deal with the fact of our own mortality. It may be that developing a more productive and calm view of the prospect of the end of one's life is increasingly important to all of us. If this is so, I'd like to be part of that, and I'd be interested in your views. Apparently the Dalai Lama once said that the problem with Westerners is that they don't think about death until they are dying - and it's a bit late then. There is a contrary view I'll go into in a future blog - but it struck me quite forcibly when I read it ten years ago.

I'm not a morbid person, so I don't intend to be gloomy in this blog, and I don't intend it to be about me. I will try to be thoughtful, and I hope not too solemn or pompous. So if the intercity route is the one that takes you thundering along from the midwife to the funeral director, welcome aboard the slow train that takes the time to meander through interesting landscapes, which may yield helpful thoughts and prompt some discussion amongst the passengers.

A Note on religion vs atheism: I'm not greatly interested any more in this argument, though I may dip into it. Why people believe what they believe, and what they do to themselves and others because of their beliefs, seems much more important now to me, than the actual internal fabric of their beliefs. I don't have a religious belief system myself, just to get that out of the way, but you won't find any crusading for or against in this blog. What I've learned from spiritual explorers - now that's a different matter. But - isn't the language of belief difficult? - neither does "spiritual explorers" mean this is a new age sort of blog.

Enough introductory generalities, down to business soon.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I think it was Thomas A Becket or someone who said that a day in which you did not contemplate your mortality is a day wasted.

    When I was a probably about 27 I suddenly realised that one day I would die, and I was panic stricken. All my fellow students told me I was daft and it was not worth thinking of, but as you point out it is a station that we must all attend at some point.

    I don't think it's morbid to realise that we are mortal. I think it is a great calling on the imagination and a great spur to live.

    Since my more recent brushes with death the rather litter strewn and shabby area of Nottingham I live in has never looked so beautiful because I can see it. More important still are people and that I believe is what life is about.