Editorial :

Encountering the Shadow of Death


As Western culture continues to emphasize consumerism, convenience and comfort, the idea of death is constantly shuffled out of our awareness. I'm not talking about the comic book death we see in action movies or spy novels. I'm not even talking about headlines splashed across newspapers. Those are all entertainment of one sort or another: an adrenaline rush, a nugget of gossip, something to fan our outrage.

The death I'm talking about, the death that has been marginalized, is real death. The death experienced by real people, real families, real communities. Our society fills the media with images of death and manages, with a cunning shuffle, to hide the experience and feelings surrounding death.

Death is an ending point. It is often a loss. Death is unpleasant. It may be traumatic. It is sometimes violent. Often, it is painful. No matter how healthy your diet or vigorous your exercise, death awaits. Death awaits you and me.

Death is one of the few undeniable experiences of life. Death simply IS. But it may not be exactly what most people think it is.

An important truth we often forget is that death is not simply the passing of life from the body. That is simply the most blatant of death's manifestations. In fact, death touches us in a hundred little ways each day. The loss of a job is a death. Divorce is a death. A mugging is a death. Even a flat tire on a rainy night is a death. Every fear, every loss, every separation is a death. And death always demands that we step into the unknown.

This is what has drawn the attention of saints and mystics for millennia. Death is the unknown. It is the supreme mystery of life which we must all, at some point, step into. A Tantric yogi meditating in a cremation ground and a Christian praying to Christ on Calvary -- both are seeking the key to this mystery.

But is there a key to death? Is there even a meaning to death?

The concept of death is so vast, so overwhelming and, in most people's experience, so heart wrenching, that it would be foolish to suggest any easy answers. The New Age community is especially guilty of trying to sugar-coat these difficult experiences.

Yet, as we encounter our little, day-to-day deaths, as we move beyond those jostling experiences, we can gain insight into how to approach death in general.

Every death is an ending point, a time of leaving behind the security of the world we know, leaving behind even the security of who we think we are, and stepping into the unknown. But death is also a beginning point. As we shed old concepts, old securities, old identities, old relationships, even old bodies, we are given the opportunity shape ourselves and our world anew.

Please don't think I'm suggesting that death should be coveted. But is it possible that death, experienced in the fullness of time, holds blessings for the evolving soul?

In Coyote's Story: Encountering Death, Sheila Griffin contributes a touching, personal account of how her time studying with a Native American shaman helped her to see the renewal inherent within death, even in the death of her own parents.

Dana Gerhardt finishes her two-part series on Living in Cyclic Time with Looking Deeply at the Moon. The moon, more than any other object, reminds the human psyche of the cycles of time, the seasons, the times of birth, growth, and eventual death. The moon is a gentle guide reminding us that, yes, there is death in its season, but the cycle always renews itself with new life.

And there is more we will be adding during the next few weeks, so please check back.

I hope you find this edition of the New Vision On-Line Magazine insightful, thought-provoking, even inspiring.


- Ivan Granger

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