Comments, In Focus

Life and death…. Death and life

We often turn a blind eye to death in the West.  But why?  After all, prevailing common sense tells us that every life ultimately ends in the same way: with death.


Mabel Encinas


Not all cultures share our fatalistic view of death.  It’s a sad fact that death occurs more frequently in countries stricken by war and extreme poverty.  Abuse and discrimination cause yet more deaths in every context.  In these  tough situations it is even clearer how little control we humans have over death.

Our outlook on death is altered by the conditions in which we live.  When we think about death, it puts our own lives into perspective.  We forget about the very ancestors we descend from – we even forget their names.  Can you remember the names of your four great-grandfathers or your four great-grandmothers?

Our names too will eventually be added to the list of the millions of expired humans across the globe.  When we remember that we too will die it makes us question the importance of who we are today.

What was important to our ancestors was based on their world view and the reality they lived through – experiences, learning, intentions, deeds.  All of which have left us with a rich legacy – ways of understanding how the world works as much as methods and ways of ‘doing’.

Biology alone could never do what the past and the past’s view of the future have achieved.  We can pass on our genes but we can’t pass on teachings to the next generation through biology alone.  These lessons we’ve learned (or our culture as we call it) transcend beyond the individual.  Artefacts, techniques, regulations, organisation and institutions are passed down, often seeming to take on lives of their own.

It would seem then that life has at least two meanings.  On the one hand, the strength and profundity of the life lessons we receive on a daily basis give sense to our lives. At the same time these daily lessons are a constant opportunity for us to get involved in the social world. When we take part in the social world, how we interact with others – all these interactions leave an impression, gradually altering the world around us.

Our own hands shape the progression of our organisations and institutions; our active participation in groups and showing our support for important causes can put pressure on, and ultimately transform, things that in the past would have been taken for granted. All deaths are not equal, and nor are all lives. Conversations about death should not simply boil down to who gets what in the will.

Having frank discussions about death and accepting its inevitability can help us put our own lives into perspective.

Perhaps our names will be forgotten soon, but our actions and our participation in the things we can change will not be.

“It is not death that preoccupies and occupies us, but life”, said Sub Commander Marcos in one of his communiqués.  Could it be that those who turn a blind eye to death are in fact turning a blind eye to life?

(Translated by Claudia Rennie  – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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