Tag Archives: death
David Carradine was found dead in a hotel room in Bangkok this morning. Bangkok police are saying Carradine hanged himself, but I dunno…I find that hard to believe. Just feels wrong to me. I have no idea if this site is reliable, but I see other news headlines disputing suicide.
It’s not easy to explain what I think is going on with us, in the matter of life, death, rebirth. There are many theories and beliefs out there, promoted by people with far bigger brains and better command of the language than I, but it irritates me no end to read what amounts to blind faith in the face of annihilation.
So, let me dispense with the simplest of theories…there is no heaven or hell, no rewards or punishments meted out when we die. I don’t believe there is one god who is watching over his little troop of naked apes, tallying our good vs. bad deeds for later review. I find it alarming that many scholars still seriously engage in theological arguments of this kind. But then, they are making a living from it, so vested interests (and winning wars) may have much to do with all that is in heaven and hell.
Many New Agers talk about being made up of stardust as if that’s something remarkably cool, but really, it’s all rather common. Dust is universal. Dust is dust. I don’t think we need to go back so far as the Big Bang to figure out what’s going on with our small lives. Does the universe go on forever? Fuck if I know, because my brain cramps up when I think about it. But, taking the cramp as a cue, I kinda doubt it. What about the Void? That hurts too, so I think I’ll leave it to the experts, but the shadows at the edges tell me the Void is hugely real with dark intelligence.
I am also not smart enough to explain or refute reincarnation or the many related ideas about what happens to us when we die. I really do need to leave this to those schooled in comparative theology, quantum physics, string theory, etc. Rather, I will attempt to relate what I think is going on based on what I see as I study Nature. I think it’s far simpler than we want to believe.
The Earth is a living thing: intelligent, rich, fertile, ever changing. The Earth is a roiling mass of life, fueled by a molten core, hot, violent, powerful and lovely. To look for that Garden of Eden, that place of peace, that Utopia is a waste of precious time, because the Earth has no time for such idleness. She’s too busy creating and destroying. It’s Shiva and Shakti and Kundalini.
We are creatures of the Earth, in all our glory and ordinariness. And we are as ordinary as bacteria and as magnificent as elephants. We are made of the same stuff as gods and rocks. We are bound by the laws of the dimensional sphere we occupy on Earth, which limits our existence by time and space. So, being creatures of the Earth, we are born of Her, we live by eating of Her bounty just as all the other creatures do, and we cycle back into the Earth and are eaten by Her. If you watch what happens in Nature, what every life form does is eat, procreate, break down and is then eaten. Each thing, including the stones and plants and animals — each thing of the Earth cycles through this spiraling process in its own time and place. Each thing of the Earth, understanding this spiral of life, exists in its own time — except for us.
Being naked and defenseless in our bodies, our specialized brains have tricked us into thinking more of ourselves than is our due. We have evolved a unique arrogance of individuality. Believing in our own personal importance, we have equated death with oblivion, and in utter disregard for all that is right in front of us, we have invented theologies to explain why we, and only we, go on apart from all the rest. While all other creatures live in the present, growing, eating, fucking, dying, we live in a place in our heads that ignores the present moment. Instead, we bemoan the past and fear the future and invent elaborate schemes to escape death — to cheat the Earth of Her food.
It makes no sense to think that we alone are creatures above the rest, exempt from the natural cycle of the Earth, the stars, the Universe. If we truly look at things, we will see the spiral of life. Our galaxies are spirals, our DNA a twisting helix. This is the course of existence. This is the way time works. Nothing is linear. Nothing is forever and nothing stays dead. It all twists and transforms, cycling through to feed the next thing, carrying food (our bodies) and DNA (our dust) in a labyrinth of ever changing patterns.
We are simply creatures of the Earth and as with all things of the Earth, it is a giveaway. We get to live, breathe, eat, think grande thoughts, have sex, break bones, die, and feed the Earth. We don’t escape our bodies and plop ourSelves into another body as if we were playing musical chairs, nor do we walk through a tunnel and hang out with our loved ones in the light. The ideas are comforting, but fanciful, and I see no evidence of it in Nature.
Nature’s way is far simpler and more mysterious. It is the Tao of Food and Dust. We pass on our dust through our children and their children and our bodies pass on to feed the Earth and Her creatures just as they fed us.
We are what we eat, and then, we are what eats us. This is the spiral. This is our giveaway. In the end, we are all food.
I am worried.
Well, of course I’m worried about global warming, the disappearing rain forest, war, society in general, but now, I’m worried about the media in this country. The NEWS (if you can call it that) media in particular. Of course, we all complain about the fluff pieces, the bias, the chit chat. Brni and I look at each other quizzically throughout every broadcast, no matter the channel, no matter if it’s local or national, and ask, “Is that news?”
But a news media that can’t figure out who’s important when they die? I mean, when people die that’s the biggest event of their lives. When people die, the impact of that death on those around them is great. And then there are those people who’s death affects many people in a profound way. The death of a world leader, a great scientific mind, a writer or artist…you get my meaning.
Recently, Molly Ivins died. She was a sharp wit, a cutting columnist, a populist in the truest sense of the word. She spoke her mind and did it out loud, in print and often. There has been a small stream of tributes to her in print written by journalists and other writers (Maya Andelou is one who comes to mind) and there were short, obituary mentions of her at the end of the national news broadcasts…you know, “And finally, we’ve lost a great blah blah…Molly Ivins died at her home…blah blah blah…and that’s the news for tonight…” Nothing more than a blip on the nightly news scene. Of course there was more, much more in print, but I’m not so worried about the print media. No, I’m worried about the television “news” that has become the way most people in this country are spoon-fed “information” about the world.
So now, the reason I’m writing this — Anna Nicole Smith died. And there’s helicopters and sirens and press conferences held by low level law enforcers, and an entire tv news magaziney show devoted to the life of this woman, and on and on…this woman who’s claim to fame was a good set of hooters.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against this poor dead woman, and I’m sorry for her untimely death in the way I’m sorry for the untimely death of all living creatures. But why the excessive news coverage of someone I had to google to find out who she was? Clearly, I’m out of the pop culture loop as this woman was wildly famous. I mean, they had helicopters and sirens at her death and nary a peep at Molly’s. I mentioned Molly Ivins to people and they said, “Who?”
Apparently, what made Anna Nicole Smith famous was the fact that people talked about her a lot. She was an under-educated, bleached blonde in the tradition of the bombshell of the 50’s, but without the talent. And somehow, the media noticed her and kept noticing her even though her accomplishments were scant and she did not leave the world a better place.
And this is what worries me. Can we rely on a news machine that can’t even get death right? Death is such a big deal and there is no way around it and no legislation or social plan that will resolve it. Death is big. And the death of important people who make a difference in the world should be a bigger deal than the death of a bimbo. It’s just that simple.
So, in a small effort to bring a bit of balance to this sad state of affairs, I have listed below a couple links. First, is Molly’s last column. The one that I think, if Molly had lived to write more columns for us, might have started a groundswell of people hitting the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!” There are a few people around hitting the streets and making noise. In a column by Amy Goodman, she says,
“…Meanwhile, houston.indymedia.org announced the formation of The Molly Ivins Brigade, to protest the war with pots and pans.
I asked Molly about The Texas Observer. “As we watch the concentration of ownership of mass media,” she said, “it’s more and more important to keep these little independent voices alive. I think that’s where the hope of journalism lies.””
We need more people with pots and pans.
And here’s a link to a search of CommonDreams.org for Molly Ivins. It’s many many pages long, and should help balance things out. At least in my little blog.
so, my uncle’s funeral is over and now i think i’m coming down with brni’s plague. ugh. even though the funeral itself was on the tame side, i am more convinced than ever that i not be given this sort of send off. here’s what i wrote about it at the beginning of 2006, right after the second death of the year. it’s longish, so unless you have nothing better to do with the time you have left….
why is it death brings out so much superstitious thinking in me: omens, cautions, worries of what it all means? and then the memories, nostalgia, that sinking sigh of time lost.
services are set tomorrow for my uncle. this will be the first time in all the years since he and sally got back together that i’ll be meeting his side of the family. i’m sure it will be the last meeting as well. it’s hard enough to tend the ties we have with the blood relations we grew up with let alone those by marriage.
i used to have a large family, as was the norm for italians at the time. grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins all were closer and gathered at the expected times, sharing food and gossip. it used to be walking into my great-grandparent’s little row house on a typical sunday was a great navigational feat–weaving through crowded rooms of suited and skirted legs, hoping not to be stepped on or grabbed for a cheek-pulling, lip-splitting kiss.
gathering times are fewer and smaller now. families themselves are smaller and the lines of blood and marriage are thinner than they were a generation or so ago. my children never had to plot a dangerous course from front door to a small concrete backyard filled with vegetables and fig trees growing against chain-link. i miss this for them. i miss the uncles who smelled of whisky and cigars, the aunts and grandmothers with aprons and wooden spoons at the ready, the cousins forming a tight circle against the tide of grown-ups, knowing that if we stayed together we stood a better chance of escaping a rough-cheeked kiss or a too tight hug.
these gatherings are mostly dim memories now. memories of another time–no more real than a memory read in a book written by someone else. to be honest, we don’t even think about each other anymore–except maybe when a funeral comes about.
so, tomorrow i say goodbye to another uncle in my shrinking number of uncles. i’ll see some cousins for the last time, and my son will see them for the first and probably the last as well.
it’s all just too sad and i don’t know if it even matters much in the end.
From the very first day of 2006, tragedy has struck on what feels like a daily basis. Our lives have been touched by illness, accident and death. As the planet heaves under the pressures of global warming, we as individuals seem to be experiencing a trickle down effect of climate change. On Friday, Brni and I mourned his aunt’s passing and on Saturday we spent his birthday at a funeral for the sister of a dear friend. Of course, the usual cliches came unbidden to my brain…
- make sure you live each day as if it’s your last
- treat each person as if this is the last time you will see them
- never go to bed angry
and on and on
And then I decided that, although these adages, or whatever you would call them, are well worth noting, there’s more to consider. How do we really want to spend our days? How do we want to be remembered (if at all)? And what do we want those still living to do when we leave them to handle our passing?
Recently I’ve been under a lot of stress that has culminated in quitting my job of 18 years. Of course, I’ve been worrying about this being a colossal mistake–a financially irresponsible move that will bring us to ruin (yes, I do go overboard about shit like this). All this worry and self-doubt has magnified my stress levels and turned me into a very annoying person to be around. Yesterday, on the way to the funeral, I woke up.
As we were heading into Long Beach, I put in a favorite cd, “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere” by Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco. I highly recommend that every person on earth listen to Utah Phillips. In fact, if you are not wholly self-actualized and ready for Bliss, this should be required as therapy.
In the best storytelling tradition, Utah Phillips tells us that freedom is not something handed to us by others, but something we have to consciously assume, sometimes by force. Once we assume our freedom, we have to defend it if we wish to keep it because there are forces at work designed to take that freedom away. This idea of freedom–freedom of purpose, self-direction, of personal truth and conviction is something that I have taken for granted for most of my life. I thought I was free simply by virtue of living in a “free country,” but I have been terribly mistaken. I have been a dupe, a lackey, bound by socially and individually-imposed restrictions and obligations that I did not assume willingly. What is worse, I was unaware that I had given up my liberty for the comfort of conformity.
I am ashamed of myself for that
With freedom comes the obligation to speak and live from the heart. To act as you believe. This is a very hard thing if you were raised to be polite person. But, there is no room for manners when your life is at stake. I’m not talking table manners. I am all for polite eating habits at the table. I’m also not saying that speaking the truth is license to cause pain or humiliation to others (unless they deserve it). No, this sort of truth is the kind that you must face squarely with the veils pulled from your eyes. You see, I have talents and I have things that are very important to me. If I fail to use my talents or if I give up what is truly important for the convenience of others–bosses, governments, gods, or even just to avoid confrontation with someone at odds with me–then I’m not just being untrue to myself, I am handing over my power–my freedom. I become nothing more than a performing monkey.
A long time ago, Harry Harlowe ran a series of famous experiments designed to find out the influences that nature and nurture have on behavior. The infant monkeys used as subjects in these experiments had all their physical needs met, but were isolated from social contact of any kind. Some were fed by a wire “mother” and others by a soft, cloth-covered mother and their resulting behavior was studied. Many fed by the wire mother failed to thrive, but unfortunately, all the monkeys exhibited poor social skills which came to be known as isolate behavior. At the end of the studies, Harlowe was left with a bunch of neurotic monkeys who exhibited very aberrant, atavistic behavior. One such behavior was termed the “phantom arm” whereby a monkey’s arm would slowly move as if sneaking up on itself and then suddenly give a good whack on the back of its own head. The monkey would scream and yell as if it had been attacked, obviously in ignorance that its very own arm was the offending beast. So, good Harry decided to see if he could remedy the situation by exposing the young isolates to normal monkeys, the idea being that the isolates would learn how to be normal. But this proved not to be the case. In fact, what happened was that the normal monkeys began showing isolate behavior.
I have found this phenomenon replicated many times over the years among us balder primates. All it takes is one very convincing asshole to move into an intact, productive, “normal” group and disrupt the hell out of it. Why is that? I don’t really know, but I wonder if we can make this phenomenon work to our advantage. Can we, as free people, people who would advocate for peace, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the greater good as well as our own good, “disrupt” the status quo and get the assholes of the world — those in places of money and power — to rise up and smack themselves upside the head?
but, i digress
I have decided that my own, personal climate change is in order.
Since the only certainty in life is death, we can’t hope to die right if we aren’t willing to live right. We have to resist doing nothing about our lives and we have to resist taking things for granted. No one knows what we want or what is important to us if we don’t speak up. And I do not, under any circumstances want anyone to dictate to me the manner of my life or the manner of my send-off from this world.
To that end, I hereby tell you what I want and what I do not want when I kick that proverbial bucket.
What I do NOT want
- I do not want a viewing, funeral or memorial service of any kind in any sort of establishment run by an undertaker, church, or any sort of place where there is a profit to be had at the expense of my loved ones.
- I do not want to be preserved, fumigated or made toxic to the environment.
- I do not want anyone to spend any money on my passing that they normally would not spend for a modest dinner with friends.
MY DEATH WILL NOT BE AN EXCUSE FOR STRANGERS TO MAKE A KILLING!
What I DO want
- I want to be composted, but if this proves difficult due to zoning restrictions, then I want to be cremated. CHEAPLY! Do not let them talk you into buying a box, or crypt or other expensive thing in which to deposit my ashes. Any ol’ receptacle will do.
- Eat sushi! Juliet came up with the perfect idea at the funeral–get a bunch of spicy crunchy tuna from the Hana and put it in the middle of Charlie and Kim’s pool table. Now, if you haven’t already disposed of my ashes, feel free to “feed me” one of those little morsels before dumping me into the compost pile.
- Climb into the hot tub and have a good, long soak.
That’s it really…keep it simple, tasty and get nekked.