Monday, March 2, 2009
Gone But Not Forgotten...Our Military Dead
The news reported the other day that our President had requested a policy review which led to lifting a ban from the press. The order banned showing photographs of the flag draped caskets of our military dead in our newspapers and magazines. Thank You, President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates.
I've written before about the gag orders on the press regarding the showing of bodies. Not only of our military dead, but also, for instance, the bodies of people who died during Hurricane Katrina.
I see this censorship as a symptom of the larger 'dis-ease' of denial. I believe that the lifting of this ban will help all of us to achieve a measure of spiritual and cultural maturity by looking clearly at something that is uncomfortable to see.
If we are never allowed to see the bodies of our dead, if we are never allowed to be present to the vast variety of feelings that can arise for those left behind, if we are told as a child, that looking at something that has died (even a bug, a bird, a chipmunk on the road), is 'bad' or 'dirty' or 'disgusting', then we have no context within which to put the experience of death when it happens to someone we are close to. It's not the time, when a death occurs, for us to do a lifetime's worth of work toward understanding, incorporating and accepting the presence of Death in Life.
It's too much to do in that one moment.
Integration of an idea...
Ideally, we could simply accept the presence of Death in Life. Here is a way of thinking about it... What if we imagine death as a door that opens and closes? And what if the door we go through when we die is the same one that opened to let us in when we were born? What if we come into this dimensional world from the same place that we return to? This might mean that when we die, we arent' going somewhere unfamiliar! I'm just offering another way of thinking on this. And as you know by now, another 'take' on it all is what I'm after.
Perhaps you have seen some of that colorful Mexican artwork of skeletons dressed in clothing--wearing tuxedos or hardhats or evening gowns or other types of clothing. At first I just didn't "get" these images. I was sort of 'afraid' of the skeleton, expecting it to 'harm' me in some way--because that's what skeletons do! (I'd been shown and taught this many ways by my culture). But these images ...they're just so whimsical! I mean some of them are really funny! If we think of Death in this way, engaging our humor, it makes room to also feel our power and our creativity. If we can accept Death enough to joke with it,( "Never knock on Death's door: Ring the bell and run away! Death hates that!")* to talk about it, to poke fun at Death in the way those dressed up skeletons do, we can begin to accept its inevitability. We can stop wasting the huge amounts of energy we spend pretending we can forestall or prevent death. We can begin using that energy to creatively engage in how we want to LIVE...and as in my previous post, what kind of "Going Away Party" we might want to have when the time comes to die.
Morbid, Melancholic and Morose?
Look, I want us to develop a relationship with Death. I want to be able to say 'Death is around us all the time' without having someone think I am morose. I'm not morose. In fact, I think we could all lighten up a bit about Death.
Let me be clear. I am not poking fun at people who have died, or the people who miss those people. It's not that I think we shouldn't grieve when someone we love dies. On the contrary! I think that if we accept the presence of death, then we are free to feel all of the feelings that arise when it happens to someone we know and love. We can say out loud "They died". We can use the actual words, "She's dead." "His death."
If we don't have to hide the word, and we don't have to hide the images of death, then we don't have to hide our feelings about it either. When we actually see more images around us of the death that occurs daily, we are not so fearfully 'surprised' by death. We don't imagine it as an adversary engaging us in a fight we must win at all costs. (how impossible that is!) This is how we might heal and grow and come into that spiritual maturity I talked about earlier. And this is why I do what I do. I want all of my work to give people 'permission' to see and honor death in ways that are sacred, creative, satisfying and real.
So Thank You, President Obamba and Secretary Gates. I'm very grateful to have the chance to see and honor and yes, grieve for those soldiers and their families by simply being visually present to the fact of their deaths. I offer my thoughts of love and appreciation to all of them and my wish for the families to move with grace and support through their time of grief.
Blessings to all,
*quote from Matt Frewer