Future (Virtue) of Death « Vlastimil Marek

Future (Virtue) of Death

24.9.2012

 I will attempt to offer my point of view on the topic of death and dying. My view offers an alternative zen view to the usual and traditional understanding of life. I’m not saying this to excuse my own decisions and I have no illusions that I will be understood in the way I would want to be; however I do hope that you will accept the point I’m making (not just the theory). This may seem out of context, but read me to the end and you will understand – I would estimate, that it would take at least three consequtive generations of people who were born through natural birth (i.e. non-medicated and even better, orgasmic) to be able to profoundly understand live (and death) in dignity, in peace with their life accomplishments. I’m also trying to hint that perhaps this is the future (and alternative) way forward…

 The classical indian music is profoundly intertwined with their spiritual life compared to (us) Westerners, who are unable to fine tune our music to benefit our minds and our bodies. In this sense we are sort of „musical barbarians“. Similarly we are complete amateurs when it comes to questions of death and dying – in comparison to practices of other cultures like Buddhists and especially Tibetan Buddhists. The current Dalailama has expressed his view on this: „In the context of several consecutive lives, the death is something like changing your clothes. When your clothes are too old and worn out, you would change them for new. It affects your attitude to death and you realize more clearly that death is a part of life.“

  „The moment of death is a very good chance for one to achieve enlightenment“, is a citation from a published diploma work of one young student of Buddhist thanatology and euthanasia. However, she doesn’t go on to say that the actual word Buddha means Awaken. To me, this is nothing new. Back in 1968, I was going through a major life crisis, and I deeply feared death and dying. Then I resolved it (intuitively) by finding a job in a funeral home as an assistant to an undertaker. I ended up collecting and transporting bodies of deceased Russian soldiers, Czech civillians and all who gave up their lives during the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia in the fight over the Czech National Radio building.

 Some years ago I have written an article on the topic of death and dying and published it in the Baraka magazine which as one of very few was interested in such taboo subjects. I have also translated and published more works by the renowned authors like Grof, Kübler-Ross, Halifax or Schroeder-Shecker (who used to play her harp to accompany people in last moments of their life). I had the opportunity playing her CD to the public while working on my own radio show Oaza for radio station Vltava. One time, I was also invited by Milan and Martin Schulz to their show on the Czech National Television for a discussion on exactly this controversial topic.

 Just like those who don’t close their eyes before the death and dying, I also know how closely the quality of life is linked to the quality of dying. We all know (or some of us perhaps don’t want to know) how undignified is the process of dying in my home country (Czech Republic).

But there is also a deeper connotation, and that is, that the quality of life and quality of dying is related to the quality of the society as such. Author of many works on death and dying Stanislav Grof, citing Terence McKenna, has said about the „way of the world“: By hook or a crook, the history of the Stupid Ape (as oppose to Homo Sapiens) is finished… and continues: It would seem that we’re going through a process, which is parallel with the phenomenon of psychological death and rebirth… If we continue to let ourselves be blindly manipulated by the destructive and self-destructive tendencies (rooted deeply in our unconsciousness), it is without a shadow of a doubt that we will destroy not only ourselves but all life on this planet.

 I agree with his view that we can not expect any major changes without the humanity having to go through deep emotional and spiritual transformation. Grof also knows, what I know too, that any effort to change the development of humanity would need to begin with some form of psychological prevention of the possible future damage. However, that can only be done in very early life (before the damage happens). This means changing the way we treat births and birth aftercare, ensuring the emotional preparedness of the future mothers, making all efforts to substitute the medicalized births by natural births and last but not least, always emphasize the importance of the bond between the mother and her child. Yes, and this is exactly what I have been saying (and writing about) for the past 15 years.

 In my life, I have managed to remain a free spirit (ideologically, humanly and artistically) in the ages of materialism and deep dark communism. I’ve also mastered other disciplines which had been viewed and commented on as somehing silly, by the today’s consumer society….

I do believe that one’s conscious decision of time of their own death is just another satisfaction in life, and maybe (in different times in future) it may be an example worthy of following. I have made a real effort all my life to be consciously ecological; I have never owned a car, I recycle and compost, and in the last years I generaly reduced my consumption of everything materialistic including all of my possessions. One of my goals in everyday life is also not to leave traces (and I also mean the emotional ones, in minds of other people).

 I’m also saying that the future of the death and dying will be (inevitably) different than what it means to us now. The time will come when it would be considered more beneficial and ecological for people to make conscious decisions about their own death. As I said above, this will also be in one way or another connected to the quality of their life (and for my part, I can say that I have fulfilled my purpose), rather than waiting to die an undignified death as if waiting to free themselves from suffering of their damaged and traumatized body and mind.

 In the old ages, our ancestors (even before the Inkas) were able to predict, or rather define the time of their own death. They even chose who would die with them. They gathered everyone for a big celebration and then died happy. Once you’ve sown what you had to sow, and built all you needed to build, it is done and it is time to go, said architect Luis Longhi. With that in mind and the above citations from McKenna, wouldn’t you say this might be a worthy example that human kind could follow one day?

 According to other cultures (especially with regards to Tibetan Buddhism) the death provides a unique opportunity to achieve „awakening“ (Western civilization is often being completely oblivious to it). But if I go just a bit further: what would death mean for somebody who has already been „awaken“? In that case, the conscious choice of death can not and never will be a suicide (as a desperate way to get out of this world), similarly like euthanasia is not a murder (and Nansen’s killing of a cat – from the famous zen koan – wasn’t a breach of the fundamental Buddhist rule of „not killing“). This is an act reaching beyond the usual customs of the society and the culture, as well as it being a lesson to be learned for the future students of spirituality.

 I can imagine that in the future (in a non-aggressive and peace loving society – if all goes well!) for the next (at least three) generations born through natural (orgasmic) birth the euthanasia will be normal. Moreover, there will be increasing number of those who have completed their purpose and consciously decided to live the end of their lives outside of the society – at the point when they’re no longer able to „produce“ and contribute to the society but instead take away the resources by purely being alive… At the end of  one’s fulfilled and happy life, the consciously decided time of death would be considered an honour.

 

 My personal (and deeply ecological) P.S.: I’ve recently come across an article where it said that an average Czech pensioner (after 66 years of life) starts to take away (consume) resources which could be used to treat the next generations. As I never owed anything to anybody and I intend to remain like that. As mentioned above, the quality of one’s life can be assesed by the ability to give something back to the society, or to be of benefit to somebody. Carl Becker’s book „Buddhist Views of Suicide and Euthanasia“ (1990) hints on the same topic, that once a person feels no longer useful, productive enough or meaningful to the society, then who are we to stop them from searching more meaningful experiences in their next life. In that respect, I have given all that I could and needed to give.

Translator´s P.S.S.: The exact word by word translation from Czech to English is not always possible – by adding one letter in the Czech spelling of the article title “Budouc(t)nost Smrti”, the author created a new word and also a pun where the secondary meaning is added by combining the two words “budoucnost” meaning “future” and “ctnost” meaning “virtue” together. So, for the English version of the article I decided to loosely translate this as “Future (Virtue)  of Death” (the word Futurtue looks too strange).