Posts Tagged ‘Death’

Death, the repressed theme

September 16, 2010

Italian psychoanalyst Luigi Zoja wrote in one of his books that death is the most repressed theme of the current century (he wrote this late in the last century), as sex was the most repressed theme of the former century. I was struck by this when I read it many years ago, and since then have watched and observed the truth whereof he speaks.

My friend who just lost her husband experienced an utter and irrevocable transformation of consciousness in one day. Nothing in our lives prepares us well for this, nor is our collective life set up to make space for such an event. Many former and present cultures do this far better than our own. If Nazarita had broken her foot, she could get paid leave from work. With a broken heart and shattered psyche, there is nothing in place in the world of business to account for that such an ordeal requires. There is little to no acknowledgement of it as anything real.

I won’t rant about this aspect as much as I am tempted to. I want to comment briefly only on the profound nature of what I am witnessing with her. She is an extraordinarily professional, competent, talented and artistic woman with a practical nature, who works a high- stress, high design, high powered job. Since her husband John died last week, the last thing she can imagine doing right now is moving at the pace of just the normal world around her, much less at that velocity of her workplace. People rush around her in stores or in traffic while she is standing still, if not literally then definitely metaphorically. What is the point of this pace?,she wonders. Nazarita is fastidious in keeping her home, but says now she likes it when she sees the spiders making their webs, especially around her front door. She thanks them and feels that they are protecting her, their webs will keep bad things from coming in. While in the house she wears a shirt from John’s closet across one shoulder and buries her nose in it while thinking or listening. She speaks about the most simple things of life with utterly transformed perspectives, straight from the heart, like a sage. Her wit is as intact as ever, and we have laughed heartily, yet the movement goes quickly from there into moods of sincere reflection and inquiry.

You can get a three-day reprieve from work so you can snap out of it. She looks at me in disbelief. In three days you haven’t even begun! I feel there is needed collective imagination to be stimulated and applied that might help bring humanity, intelligence, consciousness and deep appreciation for what death is and the processes necessary to honor it’s place in life. I am watching and learning, and hoping to help more in this.

What is Death?

September 4, 2010

I am in shock. One of ┬ámy dearest friends, and one of the dearest people I have ever known, a man just slightly older than I am who I had a long telephone conversation with just two days ago, suddenly died today. He was healthy, happy, fit, looking forward to the future, had just presented a book proposal to his publisher, one of the most happily married people I have ever been witness to, with a world of options still ahead for him that he couldn’t wait to explore – and he died suddenly.

Where is he? Where is Coco? What is death? How are those of us left behind meant to conceive of it? I have experienced death before, my father, an early boyfriend, and it all seemed beyond my grasp. Suddenly I need to grasp it. What? How are we meant to deal with this? I cannot even begin to imagine what his wife is feeling right now. What will the days and months ahead present? This is inconceivable. I don’t get it.

Death and Dreams

July 29, 2010

I remember very clearly working a dream with my analyst when I lived in Los Angeles. In it I had walked up to a person in the dream and just shot him in the head (not someone I knew in real life). I sheepishly confessed the dream, thinking it was some kind of murderous violence latent in me that we’d have to discover together. It was simple and clear to her, and made enormous sense when she talked me through it. The character in the dream represented an attitude that no longer served me. She called my shooting him in the head “efficient.” A clean way of discarding a no longer useful or helpful attitude. Oh. I got it. Death in dreams, and the Death card in the Tarot I have since come to discover through my work with it, are very different from how we think about and experience death in waking life.

Today I worked with my current dream analyst on another shooting in the head dream. Even though I should know better, I was fretting about the dream. But he saw the beauty of it very quickly. It represented an old idea, part of a collective concept of how things “should” go, that I was just getting rid of. In the dream it was “me” who was being shot, and I was saying the word “God” as I was being murdered. I have always remembered that Gandhi said that word as his assassin approached him with the gun so that he could die with the word God on his lips. My dream analyst helped me to see that what was dying needed to go to “God”, an old concept no longer serving me. Whew.

Maybe all death is really like death in dreams and tarot. A good thing. My little dog seems to be facing death and I’m often terrified. I don’t want to let go of anyone I love dearly. Reworking the whole concept right now might be a good thing.

Dionysus and Death

May 31, 2010

On Memorial Day I have often visited the graves of those I have loved, and, while living in Los Angeles, walked the Labyrinth at Forest Lawn, a large and exquisitely landscaped cemetery located over the hills of Los Angeles. Here in North Carolina I don’t have graves to visit that are personal to me, so my observances have mostly been in the home with prayers and altars dedicated to ancestors of mine and of those I am grateful to.

Tonight a friend in Asheville had a party that felt like a Dionysian ritual – an abundant banquet, with bottles of beautiful wine she provided, beauty and nature surrounding the location, and a friend brought CDs of really fun music so that after eating and drinking the wild spirit of abandonment to dance and play took over.

Driving home I remembered the sweet story told to me by a friend of my sister who lives in Austria. After one of their colleagues died, when visiting her grave they would take her favorite drink and imbibe it there to commune with her. Another friend of mine here in the mountains told me a similar story of sitting around the grave of a friend who had just died. His buddies took some beers and sat and drank them together with and in honor of him.

Dionysus is the god of wine and celebration, as well as a god who communes between the living and the dead. Tonight our Dionysian ritual seemed timely and appropriate to the occasion of Memorial Day. As I returned home I felt the spirits and the ancestors happy and well fed. I pour wine into the ground to honor their lives here on earth and the life they live wherever they are now.