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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Thanatophobia

The young, who ought to fear death most
(for having most to lose) are in denial -
as are we all to some degree,though differently. 
As for the young,
they are immortal, deathless and undying -
as were we.
Death, if it comes, is accidental and bad luck.
Later, death becomes/became
the great taboo - the elephant
that sneaks/ or sneaked its way into the room
and would not/will not
move.
Death up to now has been a silhouette,
but closer to the end we draw its finer points,
sketch in the detail, find
we can distinguish with more clarity between
regret, relief and fear. We can
regret the leaving of our loved one/s;
fear the manner of it; dread
the great unknown, the losing of control,
perhaps the confrontation with our God -
and yet find glad relief that death exists
to save us from the hell of thinking
immortality.

...........................................
Written for Stuart MacPherson's prompt Poeticaphobia for dVerse Poets Poetics.

25 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

This sums up exactly my feelings about death Dave. Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

Brian Miller said...

ha immortality would def have its down side.....all the memories to think back over....we def dont fear it being young, i think sometimes we think we will live forever...which later in life is def not the wish....each day is a gift man....

Mary said...

Very well put! "Regret, relief, and fear" definitely all play a part in one's thinking as one faces the inevitable death!

Sabio Lantz said...

I never get people thanking death -- never got that. Even when I don't fear it, welcoming it seems odd.

It was cool to feel invulnerable when young -- and even still, on reckless days, I still taste her.

manicddaily said...

I am thinking of Tithonus - I had to check the name - the human lover of Eos (Dawn) for whom she asks for immortality but forgets to ask for youth- eventually he turns to cicada - agh.

Such an interesting poem - a big subject that is definitely the elephant in the room as one ages. So well put. Absolutely. k.

Tabor said...

Not sure I see this as you do, but the vision of death does change for us all as we age.

Wolfsrosebud said...

as my young son, 26, said just yesterday... if I go it'll be a better place and my life will just have begun

Wolfsrosebud said...

as my young son, 26, said just yesterday... if I go it'll be a better place and my life will just have begun

kaykuala said...

Death is an eventuality. But why must those sentenced to death appeal for a lighter sentence. They ask to be commuted to life. Thoughtful take Dave!

Hank

Jim Murdoch said...

Carrie and I watched a programme yesterday where someone went online to see when they might expect to live to—they'd just been informed that they 'lifetime' subscription to Sports Illustrated was due to expire in May 2023 and, lo and behold, that was the date the computer threw up too—and, having done the same, Carrie tells me that I should expect to die a couple of days after Christmas 2036 making me 77 which I was fine with me because I had only budgeted to 75 based on how long my parents managed to hang on in there. The sad thing was that Carrie's date means she only has another 7 years left which is unlikely since both her parents are in their mid-eighties and longevity runs in her family. The first thing I calculated was how many years I'd have to live alone. I think it's just as well that people don't come with expiry dates but if we did then I can see our attitudes changing as our end dates loom ever closer. Since I turned fifty I've felt I was in the last third of my life and rather than depressing me it has impressed upon me how important it is to do things that mean something to me where at all possible. I don' fear death. I've never feared death. I wasn't brought up to believe in an afterlife—life after death is another thing but let's not get into that—and so when I'm done I'm done. You're a long time dead as they say, an expression I had to explain to Carrie recently as it's not one Americans are familiar with it seems.

I actually misread a line the first time I read your poem. I read 'snakes' instead of 'sneaks'—not that I'm suggesting you change it—and I thought you were making a play on the elephant's trunk.

I read a novella by Robert Silverberg many years ago called 'Going' set in a future where people lived so long they could choose when they'd had enough and wanted to die. A brief summary:

Medical advances lead to longer and longer lives, but babies are still being born. As part of a philosophy of population control, a kind of ritualized suicide (complete with counselling and final requests) called Going is favoured by people who feel they've done enough for one lifetime. They willingly depart, making room for the next generation. It's 2095, and composer Henry Stuant, at a well-preserved 136, suddenly decides it's time to Go. He's written his last string quartet, published his last commentary, travelled everywhere he ever wanted to go, done everything he could want to do. But when it comes down to it, why can't he let go? A moving story, rather unlike Silverberg's more usual avoidance-of-death scenarios, which deserves to be counted among his best work of the 70s.

It's a thought-provoking read. My copy was packaged along with two other novellas, Thomas the Rhymer and the equally thought-provoking (and Nebula Award-winning) Born with the Dead set in a future where the dead can be "rekindled" but tend to sever ties with the living. In this story we have a man whose wife dies, is rekindled but he cannot let go of her. Worth checking out.

Heaven said...

I like how the perspective of death changes, when one is younger, then now when one is older. The painting of death from a silhouette to a detailed painting of regret, or relief is thought provoking. The hell of thinking immortality ---I might have to write on this ~ Thanks for the share ~

Dulcina said...

Excellent, Dave.
Sometimes I ask myself what would be worse, leaving this world or living here eternally; well, frankly I confess I prefer dying for ever, I mean, flying somewhere else.
Your last lines are the best, especially "to save us from the hell of thinking immortality".
You describe so well the regret, the relief, the fear...
What we know is not perfect, maybe the unknown is wonderful. I think hell or heaven is inside us.
As a believer I trust God more than humans and I often remember these words of Saint Paul:
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

Thanks for sharing.

Carl said...

Living forever would be a curse unless we did not age, but then we would be gods I suppose.

Claudia said...

to save us from the hell of thinking
immortality...wow...interesting thought...true that..thinking we're immortal doesn't really make us free but maybe binds us more than we think

Other Mary said...

Way to pull out the big guns Dave. This is a very thoughtful piece on death. It's too bad the subject is so taboo in our society that we can't have more meaningful conversations about death and the ending of life (or life as we know it). You leave me with thoughts of eternity now in my mind.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

You put in great lines a thought I have heard since a child even though immortality, to be sincere, wouldn't frighten me much as death actually does...and actually as it has already done killing me almost through the spreading bereavent after losing the only one person I really loved.

A Cuban In London said...

Genius. What a beautiful and - at the same time - powerful poem. It pretty much sums up what I fear and yet find fascinating about death. We're all going there, are we not? But it's the "how", plus the "unfinished business" ( we always/will always have some "unfinished busines") that I can't bear.

Many thanks. Loved this one.

Greetings from London.

kkkkaty said...

Great synopsis and well put..then there are those who are so ill or in pain that the inevitability of it seems welcome and they wish to choose their time...tough to figure..

Cloudia said...

You are in an eternal line of worthies who wrestle in grunt, chalk, word, song, poem, philosophy, religion, yearning, romanticism... to speak the un-tellable. Yet we each understand your achievement - and tremble.



Have a lovely week-
Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

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The Elephant's Child said...

Such an accurate take on our changing attitudes to death. And another one I have found is relief at another person's death at a release from pain and indignity, while simultateously feeling bereft at their loss.

haricot said...

When I fell down unconsciously with summer heat, I thought death were so easy and sudden. I hope my death will come like this, after I have prepared in detail.

Dave King said...

Hi Everyone!
Apologies, but I shall not be spending much time at the keyboard today, so shall hope to catch up, replying and visiting, tomorrow. In the meanwhile sincere thanks for your much loved and valued thoughts, comments etc.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Very well said, Dave.

Dave King said...

Everyone
Many thanks for all these fascinating thoughts. I do not have time to answer them all individually, having made visiting the priority, but a few points you raised.

I was surprised by the number who said or suggested that the thoughts in the poem coincided with their own.

The idea of welcoming the act of death, I did not intend. It was the thought of death - the only alternative I see to having to face the thought of ll eternity unrolling before us.

Jim reminds me of my wife's 60th birthday. I organised a celebration dinner for her at a local hotel, and then realised that I would have to make a speech. So I found one of those sites on the web where you input various facts about yourself, age, weight BMI, life style, where you live etc, and it gives you your expected life span. I did all this for myself and discovered that I had been dead for 6 years.
Tommaso raises a different aspect. One I did not deal with in the poem: bereavement. Thanks for all these and others. Some will no doubt pop up in amended form in a poem sooner or later.

Linda said...

Even though I may not agree with everything you write, I enjoy reading your thoughts, Dave. Thank you so much for sharing.