Left alone in the dark

Yesterday we had a meeting with the board of Finnish Death Studies Association of which’s secretary I am currently. We were discussing about the possibility of launching an online journal of Finnish death studies and related issues. One person commented we could have a section which could discuss about different phenomenons, people and interesting themes around death, dying and bereavement. This means anything from movies to literature, from interviews to columns. I myself I am a movie buff and I have seen several magnificent films about euthanasia, for example The Sea Inside (2004), which touched me greatly. It occurred to me yesterday that there has been several films throughout the past ten years that contemplate the different aspects of life and death.

Tony Walter (1994) has written that death is the ideal of the 21st century. Death is also something that defines the very existence of human race and life itself. Without life there is no death and without death there is no life. We try to avoid getting older by eating healthier, keeping fit, living a good and a long life, but what aging actually is it makes us face our very own death. We all will die someday. Different religions offer different comforting ideas of having a soul, eternal and immortal, that it is only our body that will die. Treating this body determines also how we consider treating our soul. The faster we will face the death or our mortal body, the faster we will face our immortal soul. Some religions call it facing God itself.

When we loose a loved one we comfort ourselves by the notion that they are in a better place, that they do not have to suffer anymore or experience any pain through their fragile body. What we are actually doing is comforting our own fears of experiencing a painful death, an oblivion that lies somewhere behind the line of life and death.

What frightens people is the unknown. We do not know what lies in the afterworld. Some people have experienced their own biological death and survived from it, but their stories of bright lights and peacefulness are shadowed by scientific knowledge of the hallucinations of the brain. Other stories are labelled as religious belief, bedtime stories or myths. Nevertheless we are still afraid. Afraid as small children left alone in the dark.

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