Death Can Be A Welcome Friend
by Jake Block
I turned the cards in the semi-darkness of my den and my client gasped. There lay Death… number 13… the depths of the abyss lay open for her. But then, she didn’t understand the true meaning of the cards.
Now, those of us who have read the Tarot cards for fun and profit know that the cards are not always as they might seem. There are variations of the meanings of each card, dependent upon its position, orientation, and the question at hand. “Death” can mean a change, a movement in other directions, or the birth of new idea and opportunities when in the “divinatory.” Inverted, the meanings may be adverse to the question at hand, but seldom in the course of a routine reading would I interpret the cards as an omen of impending personal demise.
People can accept death when it’s set in stone and inevitable. The know that they are going to die; the saving grace is that most people are blissfully unaware of when. You are going to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so enjoy life for what it’s worth and when your time comes, it comes.
What scares the bejeebers out of people is the random uncertainty of death. We all know of people whose lives were taken, seemingly by random chance. A lightning strike. routine anesthesia gone wrong, or an accident in the home are things that are unforseeable. No matter how careful you are, life is inherently dangerous, and there are things in our daily lives that we take for granted that are swift and deadly. We accept it as a part of life and protect ourselves when we can.
We know that lightning is dangerous, so we don’t stand under tall objects in storms. Before we go into surgery, we learn all that we can about the choices of anesthesia and trust the training of the anesthesiologist. We check our homes for hazards, especially if we have children. It’s a common sense approach to life and self protection. We don’t want to die.
But there are times when death is a welcome friend. There are times when it is not only welcome, but prayed for as release from the pain and suffering that is catastrophic illness of permanent injury. It is an alternative to years of pain and suffering at the hands of those physicians and scientists who, although sensitive to our helpless plight, are politically or ethically bound to an outmoded system of law that refuses to recognize the right of individuals to live and die with dignity.
So we see that all things are relative. Death is neither good nor evil. It simply is a fact of life. It all depends on where you are and what your frame of reference is at any given time.
There seems to be an all pervasive delusion with humanity that things must be either black or white, with no shades of gray. It’s not that way at all. but it helps those with a limited scope of reality to believe that things are cut and dried; either fish or fowl. This explains a great many things in their life, and gives them a frame of reference, albeit distorted at best. It’s binary way of thinking in which life and all things within it fall into column A or column B, plus or minus.
You think I’m wrong? Listen to those around you. If it rains on a day that a picnic is planned, you might hear the average person moan, “Why did this have to happen to me?” The rain has proven to be a tragedy of the first order (forget about being afflicted with intractable cancers or the loss of one’s sight… the damned sandwiches are getting soggy.) Suddenly their life is turned upside down. They flare up at family and friends. Their world has been disrupted, and it’s all directed at THEM. They react in a typically paranoid way; yet to them, in their columnar way of thinking, an evil has been foisted upon them.
The reality of the universe, as I see it, is this. In the great scheme of things, you and I are fairly insignificant, despite our sometimes overemphasized self importance. Given that in time everyone can do something that is of value to the world as a whole, there is hope for us. But even in the case of those whose contributions have been world-shaping, seldom, if ever, has the world relied upon their existence for its survival. Einstein, Schweitzer, Salk, and Sagan excepted, man has done little to enhance the earth’s health… sadly, quite the opposite is true.
We’ve overpopulated this planet and we’ve polluted it and we’ve managed to foul the very sources of life for centuries to come. Gaia is a forgiving mother, but soon, even her patience will run short for her human children. We may learn to save the world and thereby save ourselves, but the gambler in me says to play the odds and say that we won’t. We’ll most probably place ourselves on the endangered species list and watch ourselves sink slowly into oblivion, leaving the earth to purge itself of our ages of contamination, after another billion years.
So here too, death becomes the welcome friend. Ironically, if we eliminate ourselves through our own selfish indifference yo our own environment, we may save the planet and its other creatures. We may allow a return to a simpler, less complicated planetary existence. Of course, there would be no humans left to appreciate the changes that our passing will have wrought. Our brushes with disaster can prove to be the catalyst for change that we as a species need. So far that hasn’t been the case, for even with the lessons of Love Canal, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Bhopal and other environmental disasters, we find our leaders (and ourselves) being dragged, kicking and screaming toward environmental responsibility, all the while debating as global climate change now looms.
On a personal level, how one deals with death is at least as important as how one deals with life. For all our claims of sophistication and intellectual superiority, there is much paranoia concerning death. Death is, in the final analysis, little more than the final act in “the play of life.” We all must die.
Those whose religious upbringing shows death to be a reuniting of the spirit with the godhead seem as reluctant to enter the realm of darkness as those who believe there is nothing beyond the grave. Those who believed in reincarnation and the ultimate survivability of the spirit equally share the fears and trepidations of those who do not. The fear of death and what lies beyond is the one common ground for all men.
Paranoia over death and the fear of imminent death is far from new. Mankind has always found some threat of destruction to stab like ice through his heart. Plagues, famines and wars have often been the catalyst for mass hysteria and isolation, and have been the stuff from which legends have been born. The village of Oberamergau, Germany, scene of the world-famous Passion Play, held every 10 years is a living legacy to the grip of terror that the plague held on Europe. The legend has it that in exchange for keeping the plague out of Oberamergau, the villagers would commemorate the life of Christ every 10 years in a spectacular pageant. The plague did not reach Oberamergau, and the villagers keep their pledge to this day.
The primary reason that the plague didn’t decimate Oberamergau was that the villagers isolated themselves in the Bavarian highlands and did not travel to infected cities, nor did they allow outsiders to enter. The location of the village itself provided a great deal of protection, in that it was snowed in for an entire winter and, by the coming of the spring, the plague in the valley had run its course. These are simple explanations, but to those who know that their village was spared by the Will of God, they are unnecessary. They were spared. Their motivation was not piety, but survival.
Mankind knows that death is only a heartbeat away from him at any time, and constantly makes deals with himself, Hod and the devil to forestall the inevitable. One may “get to see God” when one dies, but it doesn’t seem to be a very high priority in life, even for the most devout of religious people. It’s what they strive for, and the end to all of their prayers, but death, the ultimate obstacle, stands in the way.
How wonderful, people often think, that it would be to be immortal. But think of the terror of having to live forever. Were one to achiever immortality by some magical formula, he would have to contend with death on a routine basis. Friends and family would die, to be replaced by others who would die. Each cycle of birth and death would serve to underscore the loneliness of the immortal who, unlike his mortal associates, in condemned to an eternal death watch over those he loves. Before long, one’s humanity would be sorely tested, since to become attached to temporary beings would be maddening. To know that all who dared love or accept love would perish in the relative twinkling of an eye would be more than a normal human could stand.
There must be an end to all things. Death is the natural conclusion to life. It is regeneration and the nourishment of the earth; man’s final installment on his earthly adventure. What lies beyond is a mystery now, as it was in the beginning, and shall remain for all time. But without death, nab can never seek to see beyond the veil of his limited scope. There are new worlds to conquer and new adventures to be had beyond the limitations of one’s failing body, when man attempts to conquer the unconquerable.
When man has lived his life and lived it well, he knows that there will come a time when he must forfeit his claim to his small and temporary lease on the world. It is then that death becomes a truth to be experienced more than a terror to be shunned. As we close our eyes at last, confident that we’ve lived our lives the best that we could, there comes a moment of satisfaction and acceptance. Death can sometimes be a welcome friend.
The Orders of The Sect of the Horned God