Saturday, March 26, 2016

Memento mori redux

I return to what appears to be my favorite subject, death. And why not? We are all born to die. That is why we are called mortals. We begin the process of dying the moment we are conceived. The assembly of elements and energies that coalesce into a unique event that each one of us is, is just that, another opportunity for the life force to express itself, trying out different forms and activities. That life force is powered by natural selection and genetic programming.

In true fractal correspondence, or recursiveness, the evolutionary process itself evolves. The trajectory of evolution has shifted from mere genetic variation to memetic development. Natural selection has progressed to encompass the realm of ideas, those combinations that favor not mere survival, but optimal thriving. The bulk of the human species is, however, still operating at reptilian levels, responding to genetic programming to ensure physical survival. Those that have managed to transcend to postgenetic programing in the realm of memes, are yet mostly caught in early memes which tend to bolster the base survival mechanisms around food, sex, and status.

These primitive memes include tribal culture, religion, and my hobbyhorse, the monetary system. These tend to operate at the level of binary and magical thinking that sustains and reinforces themselves and each other. A delusional mythology is perpetrated so unconsciously and pervasively it becomes orthodoxy. Critical thinking, based on logic, rationality, objective evidence, and scientific inquiry are rare, if not actively discouraged. The fable of the Emperor's New Clothes is instructive.

These musings have been whirling around in my head for a while but setting them out was prompted by learning of the passing of Sharon Thomas, a singular event i was privileged to witness briefly when she and i were students of Religious Science at the Temple of Light in Kingston, Jamaica, some twenty-odd years ago. She was an angel, a boddhisattva, an emanation of Erzulie, or a singularity - choose the metaphor that matches your worldview - if ever there was one. Certainly her passing is an occasion of grief for her family and friends, each bringing their own hermeneutic response (HR) determined by their worldview, to the loss.

Some may resign themselves to God calling her home, taking back what was always his. Others that she is finally freed of suffering, resting in eternity after years of toiling in the vineyard. That dying on Good Friday indicates a special place in heaven. That she is reunited with her mother who predeceased her three years ago. That she has gone on to greater glory. You know them all and likely have used one or the other when offering condolences. These ready, often automatic, socially-sanctified responses allow us avoid facing fear and anxiety around our own mortality and inevitable death.

My own HR is that she has reverted to source, the elements of which her body was composed recycled back into circulation, never to reconstitute in that particular configuration again; the non-physical aspects revert to the undifferentiated ether, also not ever taking the particular concatenation that we know as Sharon. She has simply returned to what she was before she was born. My other takeaway is to appreciate individual life, my own and others'. I'm reminded to get done what i want to get done. This is the only opportunity to be just me, in just this way, just now, in all of eternity. This is the gift of life which most people choose to squander, caught up in genetically-programmed drives and postgenetic delusions.   


Susan said...

A wonderful post, Larry! Death is so often an uncomfortable topic to think and talk about, although we will all experience it. Your final paragraph is beautiful! said...

Thank you. I have been fascinated since birth I believe. Others think I am looney to always be cozying up to death, but I have recognized the importance of dying and the need to die; its just that as mortals we don't know how to appreciate and then separate our emotions from the material. we get anxious of losing this and that. Doing so encourages fears et we miss the importance.

Larry Chang said...

Thanks, Susan. I've come to believe that accepting the imminence of death is the key to living a full life. As Samuel Johnson quipped "when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." A sense of death just over our shoulder should encourage one to be fully present.

Indeed, afteraristotle, it is death that gives meaning to life.