I spoke with a friend at the weekend (after the Tour de France had passed through!) about the cyclical nature of life and death. She spoke of a t-shirt which she had seen which said "Always and Forever". Her reaction was one of irritation that modern society continues to think in this way, when actually everything is temporary. There is no such thing as 'forever' - from the butterfly in our field, to our solar system - all is temporary. This led me to thinking about the cycle of life and death cycle which is all around us. For example, the growth of leaves on an oak tree in springtime, followed by their death in Autumn, as they fall on the forest floor to nourish the plants below the oak's canopy. Or the growth of a bluebell from its bulb of stored energy, to its flowering, and then death as the seeds germinate and are spread by the wind. Our own births in our springtime, followed by our deaths in the winter of our short lifetimes', giving way to the next generation of humans. Birth, life and death surrounds us.
However, in the West there is a palpable fear of death and dying; a fear of loss; a fear of our own mortality. Many human civilisations have looked to immortality as a life-long goal in order to escape the cycle. The ancient Greeks told myths where the protagonists strived to gain 'the gift' of immortality from the gods. Now we look to medicine, instead of the Greek gods of old, to give us immortality. Or at the very least, to give us more time . We give the elderly a cocktail of drugs in order to give them a few more weeks, months or years of life. We keep people on life-support machines for years before finally switching them off. We keep life going whatever the cost. This longing for eternal life can also be seen in plastic surgery when done for solely cometic reasons, where there appears to be an echo of a deep fear of ageing and death; a longing to go back to have our time again. Yet all this feels useless against the insurmountable force that is the cycle of life and then death.
I fear my own death. Yet it is also something which I know is part of the human condition, and something I will have to get over! Actually, not simply 'get over', but rather be able to accept and feel comfortable about my own eventual death. I have killed animals - mostly to put them out of their misery. Pigeons as they have been hit by cars, and yet are somehow alive. One of our chickens as our dog 'played with her' too much. Mice which the cats have caught but not killed yet. I kill these animals as I cannot bear the thought of a drawn-out and painful death for them. However, I have also shot rabbits and pigeons to eat. We have two pigs at the moment which we plan to slaughter of meat in the Autumn. I have 'killed' weeds by uprooting them and throwing them on the compost. And I actively kill mosquitos. All of these deaths make me more and more acutely aware of my own eventual death. It is so easy (in practical terms) to kill another life - whether it be an act of mercy or for my own sustenance - I have come to think that my own life cannot be so special. I fail to see how my life is more important that the life of that pig in the field, or the mouse that our cat just killed and ate. These are all simply parts of the natural cycle of life and death. We are not above this cycle. We are part of it.