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Author Topic: Let's Talk About Death  (Read 215 times)

Morbid

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Let's Talk About Death
« on: August 10, 2017, 02:22:12 am »
So in case you don't know, I'm a Mortician here in N. Carolina.  I'm not your average Mortician, I believe in having a positive attitude about death.  So I want to talk about death.  Let's clear the air, get read of the dust on the Book of Souls.  The following is a talk I'm giving soon at a local university, figured I'd share here, as well. 

"Death" is a five letter word that can strike any number of emotions into the hearts of anyone who hears the word.  But why?  Is it such a terrible thing that we must eventually face our own morality?  Well, yes, for many that's exactly the case.  I believe that death isn't something we should be afraid of.  It's something we should be prepared for, sure, but not afraid of.  I'm fond of the following definition: death is not the end of life, but simply the next phase in the cycle.  Or as Mister Twain put it "I do not fear death.  I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." 

But why do humans fear this natural occurrence so much?  Death is exactly that, a natural occurrence in the World.  After all, every living being that has ever been could not possibly continue to live for eternity on Earth.  It would be simple chaos and overrun.  There would be no where for even an ant to stand.  Could you imagine if all the ants that have ever lived on Earth continued to live?  It's a huge number.  6.e+26, to be exact.  That's a six with twenty-six zeros behind it.  What about humans?  With roughly seven billion humans on the planet right now, we're nearly maxing out our resources.  What if there were roughly a hundred and seven billion?  It'd be extremely crowded.  Humans have this fear of their own mortality.  It's a hard thing for humans to deal with.  Often times, we live in this bubble, thinking that we can somehow declare ourselves off limits to death.  Often enough, we're faced with the harsh reality of death without warning.  Without preparation of any sort.  Perhaps it's a grandparent, or a parent, or a sibling, or a friend.  Either way, it has a bad habit of slapping us in the face with a bunch of emotions we weren't prepared to deal with.  The truth is, we need death.  We need that part of the cycle, because if we didn't have death, well, it'd be quite crowded on Earth.

If we can't fix death, then what can we do?  Well for one, we can be prepared for our own death, for our parents, even our siblings.  We can sit down and discuss with our loved ones a complicated and hard to have conversation: what to do when they die.  You can even make a death plan for yourself, by outlining exactly what you want done with your remains and what you want for a ceremony.  You can put it in a notebook, or a binder, or just a simple letter in an envelope.  Then give it to four or five close relatives, friends, spouse, etc.  You're probably wondering why on Earth would I even want to do this.  The answer to that is simple: closure.  Doing this helps your friends, family, spouse when you're gone.  It gives them a set of instructions so that they're not scrambling trying to figure out what to do about your death.  I see it everyday - husband passes away suddenly, wife has no idea what to do and stresses over it.  And possibly more important, it helps you accept your own mortality.  It helps you to provide a closure to yourself over your own death.

The second thing we can do to prepare is one of a religious nature.  After all, one of the founding purposes for religion is to provide answers for the after life.  Having this basis of information, it provides some comfort to us.  One of the biggest fears is that of the unknown.  Religion serves to answer that question and calm that fear.  There's over four thousand recognized religions in the World.  Surely, there's one of those that you can agree with. 

The problem with fear, is that it tends to prevent living.  And that's the trick: you can't forget to live.  The only man that has ever truly died, is the one that forgot to live.  That's such a powerful statement, isn't it?  That if you live a life to the fullest, you do gain immortality.  Our bodies will eventually die and decay away.  From the Earth all things return.  But the stories about you live on, to your grandchildren.  To your grandchildren's grandchildren.  To thousands of children if your impact is far and wide.  Next year is the three-hundredth anniversary of Blackbeard's death.  For three hundred years, parents have told their children stories of the terror of the seas.  Historians have debated, researched, and debated some more on every detail of his life, even the mundane things such as his choices in lovers.  His body is long gone and returned to the Earth, as it only takes fifteen or so years for a body to decompose to nothing once it's buried, if it's buried without a coffin.  And yet, Blackbeard lives on. 

At the end of the day, all of us will eventually die.  Some of us before others, but it is inevitable.  You'll end up on a cold metal table, being worked on by someone like me, who handles dozens of dead bodies everyday.  So what's the point?  To live in such a way you gain immortality.  Blackbeard did terrible things in his day.  But he lives on.  And remember, death will come for you.  Are you prepared?

Thank you.
For he who has truly lived never truly dies.

Sefiru

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Re: Let's Talk About Death
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2017, 06:32:58 pm »
I believe in having a positive attitude about death. 

I've always been fond of the Sandman version of Death for this reason.

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as Mister Twain put it "I do not fear death.  I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." 

I think it would be useful to distinguish between death as a state of being, and death as an event. Being dead might not be all that bad, but dying is often messy and painful.

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If we can't fix death, then what can we do?  Well for one, we can be prepared for our own death, for our parents, even our siblings. 

I work in life insurance, so I'm familiar with this concept from the other side. On my monitor at work I have a figurine of Sokar, the Egyptian god associated with makers of tombs and grave goods. It seems appropriate.

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After all, one of the founding purposes for religion is to provide answers for the after life. 

All I'll say on this is that it's debatable and I'm sure some other members will be along to debate it. I lack the necessary background knowledge.

Morbid

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Re: Let's Talk About Death
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2017, 07:02:24 pm »

All I'll say on this is that it's debatable and I'm sure some other members will be along to debate it. I lack the necessary background knowledge.

Thank you for your whole response :) It's a talk I'm giving at a University, so feedback is welcome.  I like to hear others' thoughts on it as well. 

As far as religion goes, we could literally have an entire conversation about that!  It's not really the main focal point of the talk I'm doing, but I will elaborate a bit here.  All religions have three main purposes, which are the only true-blue ways to define a religion: 1) to provide a system of believes that attempt to explain the Universe, this includes death and the afterlife; 2) to regulate and unite different peoples; 3) and lastly to provide a comfort to our own humanity.  Humans have been on Earth for roughly 200,000 years, while religion has only been a cultural event for the best guess of 6,000 years. 

There's some debate as far as where the word originates from.  Some claiming it comes from relegare "re-" or meaning again, and "-legare" meaning to read.  Others claim it comes from religare meaning "to bind fast".  In truth it's probably some combination of the two.  English is funny like that. 
For he who has truly lived never truly dies.

SunflowerP

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Re: Let's Talk About Death
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2017, 08:55:00 pm »
All religions have three main purposes, which are the only true-blue ways to define a religion: 1) to provide a system of believes that attempt to explain the Universe, this includes death and the afterlife; 2) to regulate and unite different peoples; 3) and lastly to provide a comfort to our own humanity.

That's a strong fact-claim, and one that doesn't seem to me to be in accord with anthropological perspectives. Have you a reliable, preferably scholarly, source for your definition?

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Humans have been on Earth for roughly 200,000 years, while religion has only been a cultural event for the best guess of 6,000 years.

That's how far back it's possible to speak of 'history of religion', in the narrow sense of the word 'history' (written record). AFAIK there is no sound reason to suppose that religion 'as a cultural event' did not come into existence until the invention of writing. By what source do you claim it to be a 'best' guess?

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There's some debate as far as where the word originates from.  Some claiming it comes from relegare "re-" or meaning again, and "-legare" meaning to read.  Others claim it comes from religare meaning "to bind fast".  In truth it's probably some combination of the two.  English is funny like that.

Well, no. The word in English doesn't have debatable origins; it comes from Latin religionem/religio. The uncertainty is about the root of the Latin words. (As a minor side note, the word you spell as 'relegare', OEtymD spells 'relegere'.)

While it's true that language development (not just in English) is often funny like that, is your statement that 'in truth it's probably' both in any way based on the surmises of linguists/philologists, or is it your own surmise?

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Morbid

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Re: Let's Talk About Death
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2017, 10:01:19 pm »
That's a strong fact-claim, and one that doesn't seem to me to be in accord with anthropological perspectives. Have you a reliable, preferably scholarly, source for your definition?

Some of it is based on the dictionary definition of the word.  This is an interesting article on the subject.  And as far as the rest, it's collected through analyzing patterns of religion through out human history.  It is in no way meant to be a 100% here you go, line in the sand statement (nor is the whole post).  However, most theologians would agree that those three qualities have been shared by religions. 

I'd be curious of your suggestions of religions that do not follow these trends.  I am not in any way saying that they do not exist, and if they do, I'm quite curious about them.

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That's how far back it's possible to speak of 'history of religion', in the narrow sense of the word 'history' (written record). AFAIK there is no sound reason to suppose that religion 'as a cultural event' did not come into existence until the invention of writing. By what source do you claim it to be a 'best' guess?

Well, no. The word in English doesn't have debatable origins; it comes from Latin religionem/religio. The uncertainty is about the root of the Latin words. (As a minor side note, the word you spell as 'relegare', OEtymD spells 'relegere'.)

While it's true that language development (not just in English) is often funny like that, is your statement that 'in truth it's probably' both in any way based on the surmises of linguists/philologists, or is it your own surmise?

Sunflower

Both of these are my own surmise.  As I said, the best guess was 6,000 years.  And really, if we are going off the invention of writing, it's closer to 5,000 years.  Writing was invented somewhere around 3,000BC.  In reality there probably was religion before the invention of writing, but how do we know, if we don't have any records of it?

Understand - I am by no means an "expert" on the subject, nor am I aiming to make "line in the sand" claims (even though they may have sounded like that).
For he who has truly lived never truly dies.

Sefiru

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Re: Let's Talk About Death
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2017, 08:06:42 pm »
Some of it is based on the dictionary definition of the word.

Yeah, dictionary definitions don't tend to hold up well once you get into technical discussions. In the case of the one you linked to, defining religions based on shared beliefs is itself inaccurate, since that's mostly only true of Christianity; it's more common for religions to be based on shared practices

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This is an interesting article on the subject. 

It's far less specific or informative than the top-level Wikipedia page on religion, and is lacking in specific examples.

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I'd be curious of your suggestions of religions that do not follow these trends.  I am not in any way saying that they do not exist, and if they do, I'm quite curious about them.

There's another dimension to this argument, and that is how important any of these 'trends' are to the religions in question. Sure, there might be some concept of an afterlife somewhere in the mythology, but is it all that significant to the structure of the religion (eg. Norse religions, Judaism, Shinto)

Same with 'explaining the Universe'; this kind of myth is usually a means to some other end.

If you look at what various religions say about their own purposes, you're more likely to find mentions of experiencing the sacred (knowing God, reaching enlightenment), and personal benefit for the practitioners (prayers for healing, good luck charms, warding off evil etc).

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the only true-blue ways to define a religion:

Ooh, them's fightin' words!

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