By Hariulf OR
“O woe, woe,
People are born and die,
We also shall be dead pretty soon
Therefore let us act as if we were dead already…”
From “Song in the Manner of Housman” by Ezra Pound
In this article, I have decided to speak of a subject that we do not cover very often in our daily discussion but that is yet one of the few certainties we have in life: death. This is a huge topic and I think we could write many books without ever being able to fully cover it. In this article I’ll just offer some reflections on this subject that came during my meditations.
As I said above, one of the only things we can be certain of in life is that one day we will die, it’s inevitable. We do not know when, where or how, but we know that one day our turn will come. In fact, if we think well, we are currently dying; the moment of our death is a matter of time. By refusing to face death, we shut ourselves in the illusion.
For many people, talking about death is a kind of taboo. One gets the impression that if we talk about it, it may strike us suddenly. For many people, death is also the end of everything, the nothingness. I think that it’s our perception of death that develops our “way of life” and our life. I also think that death had to be an important element in religions because it opens up questions like: who am I, why am I here, what happens after death etc…
The vision of death that we have in general in the West is perhaps the source of how we behave towards nature and environment. In the West, and it is certainly due to Christianity, many people reject the simple idea of rebirth or reincarnation. As a result, people have a short-term view of things. Most people do not see beyond their present incarnation. It’s maybe why many people act as if they were the last generation on earth. People say, “why should I take care of the planet, why not just take advantage of our comfort, after all we will not be here to see the results.” This short-term view, this thought that once we are dead there is nothing more, drive people to a boundless egotism.
This short-term vision has impact on other domains: ecological, social, economic etc. I sometimes become really angry when I talk with people on issues such as immigration. I remember a debate on the fact that Islam might become the biggest religion in Switzerland in 50 years. The answer from one of my relatives, “Oh, I would not be here to see that, so it does not matter for me.” What can we say in the light of so much selfishness? Even without speaking of their own reincarnation, these people are so dominated by their ego that they do not even realize that their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren etc. will live in the world that they will leave to them. Most people are only concerned with their immediate needs. They feel absolutely unconcerned with what happens after their death. For them, their life is over and they are confident they will not suffer the consequences.
I think that if people were aware that death is not an end but a new beginning, a new chapter in their “personal history”, they will have a vision for the long term. If they were aware that we are all somehow immortal, they would realize the importance of the environment and nature, of their heritage and of future, because they would keep in mind that sooner or later they will be back in Midgard.
I also believe that to focus only on this life is the basis of selfish materialism in which we live. Indeed we fear so much the impermanence of life that we surround ourselves with material objects in order to avoid it. We become slaves of materialism even if we think that we are free. We think that it is things like a big house, a nice car, the latest electronic device or holidays in the sun that will make our life happy and successful. But if we think well, we do not take anything material with us the day we die, so why waste our time to obtain material goods? But one thing that we will take with us the day we die it’s all our “spiritual goods “.
The problem is that we do not have time to have a spiritual life, or to be more honest; we think that we don’t have the time. We have so many distractions that we do not even have the time or inclination to sit five minutes to take the time to think. And as we think that our life is limited by death, we spend our time making plans: study, work, home, family, car, holidays, etc… In fact, we do not live in the present moment. Our life escapes us, it governs us. It is our life that leads us and not us who conduct it. We are slaves of our life or of what we think our life is. We have too many distractions. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I’m sure that if we passed a tenth of our time in spiritual activity, we would almost be able to reach the Odin Consciousness in this lifetime. The problem is that even if we find the time to sit down, we’re afraid to find ourselves alone with ourselves, this stranger that we know so little. This is why we surround ourselves with noise and distractions… for escaping ourselves, for escaping reality and for escaping our death.
By refusing to face death, we wrap ourselves in some way in the illusion. Life and death belong together. Death is just the beginning of another chapter. Death is a mirror which reflects the full meaning of life.