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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Don't read this

I consider that death is the greatest taboo of humanity. We never mention it. No one ever dies we simply 'pass away'. Most religions cater to our fear of death by telling us that death is not the end. While the Buddha told us that everything that exists is impermanent and has no soul, Buddhists still cling to the notion of rebirth.

I intensely dislike euphemisms. When I was editing at Tzu Chi an article mentioned someone's 'passing away'. I took it up with the head of publishing. 'We are Buddhists. The Buddha taught that everything that exists is impermanent. Why are we afraid to say that this person died?'

The publisher agreed with my argument from a Buddhist perspective but she wouldn't change it. 'It is very strong in our Chinese culture. We have difficulty with the word "death".'

Am I different or is it a male thing? Do other men fear death because I feel I don't.

As a young man I dated a colleague whose sister was studying psychology. One night she gave a few of us a psychology test based on Freudian symbolism. It was a narrative and you had to say what you would do in various situations. 'You are going down a narrow laneway. At the end there is a high brick wall, what do you do?'

Without hesitating I responded, 'Climb over it.'

Apparently the wall represented death and according to my girlfriend's sister not many people responded as I did.

In my lifetime I have faced death on three occasions, the first at the age of 17. What I mean by this is that I reached a point where I thought, 'This is it. I am about to die.' Obviously death rejected me each time. The point is that on each occasion I was 100% calm about the situation.

I don't say this to make out that I have any special quality. I have my fears. I would fear living if it meant living in severe pain. Death would be my preference.

So, what about you? Anyone game to comment on this one?


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