Do You ever Wonder about Your Own Death?


Do you walk in Beauty?

Brief life, Long death

I’ve wondered often about death, for as long back as I can remember. I’ve thought quite often of the cessation of life– of what happens when I cease to exist. Probably because I’ve seen quite a few deaths up close and personal, lost family members to illness or accident.

What gloom and doom, I can hear some of you say– but the fact is, if you’re reading this, you’re alive. And if you’re alive, you’re going to die, just like me or anyone else, all living creatures must die.

This morning I read an article by journalist and philosopher Stephen Cave who wonders about a fly he has accidentally swatted to death.

“…it seems to me quite reasonable to think that the death of the fly is entirely insignificant and that it is at the same time a kind of catastrophe. To entertain such contradictions is always uncomfortable, but in this case the dissonance echoes far and wide, bouncing off countless other decisions about what to buy, what to eat – what to kill; highlighting the inconsistencies in our philosophies, our attempts to make sense of our place in the world and our relations to our co‑inhabitants on Earth. The reality is that we do not know what to think about death: not that of a fly, or of a dog or a pig, or of ourselves.”

He goes on to wonder at length about the significance of death, our own and that of the people and living beings around us, and I think the entire article is well worth the read.

 I’m not entirely sure what I think of death, mine, or anyone/anything else’s. I’ve written, briefly, about death on this blog. About the death of my fish, the cyclic death of fish babies, and their mating parents, of my betta and his suffering.
From the post about my dead betta, written three years ago:
But then, what do I know of suffering, and how do I know whether a short suffering is any less hard to bear than a prolonged one? Does a small fish suffer? Does it suffer as much as a human? Is the suffering of the human more evident to me because a human is bigger than a small fish, and the fact that I am a human myself?
I’ve blogged less often of the loss of family members and friends, and then not directly, because this isn’t really a very personal blog. But as anyone who has read my fiction would know– my preoccupation with death and suffering has remained– be it accidental, suicide, or murder and a variety of deaths in between.
My thoughts might change, but as of today, I believe a death hurts as much as the attachment to the dead person or animal or plant.
  • Which is why a friend’s death is devastating, whereas a man dying on the opposite side of the world, who you read about in the news, causes much less alarm. A pet’s death is painful, but the death of a random fly or snail isn’t.
  • Following from this, the prospect of one’s own death is the most scary to some of people, because they’re most attached to themselves, or their survival instincts are alive and kicking. Which isn’t a bad thing.
  • The bad bit, according to me, at least, is not confronting death at all, keeping it taboo, a faraway topic to avoid. No point in trying to ignore the inevitable. Not that thinking about death day and night is the solution, but thinking about it once in a while can’t be all that bad.
What about you? Do you think of death? Your own death? The death of those you have lost? How significant is a fly’s death: is it a tragedy, or a catastrophe, or both?
For anyone reading this post without a blog account– the discussion is also up on my Facebook Page: Damyanti at Daily Write . Would love to have your Facebook comments there.

Do you walk in Beauty?


Do you walk in Beauty?

Blooming in Beauty

Life is fleeting. Before I know it a day, a week, a month, a year: whoosh, gone.

In theory, I understand that if I’m mindful, let each moment live itself, and my self live that moment, time would expand. Because what is time after all– it’s a concept, it’s a function of motion, it’s the ticking clock in our bodies.

When I read Byron in school, can’t say I liked him much– I found his writing pansy, unreal, and puked in my mouth a little at passages like these from She walks in Beauty:

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

What crap, I used to think, idealizing and infantalizing a woman, making of her something less than flesh-and-blood. A part of me still agrees. But as days slip through my finger like the finest sand, I wonder if some of it isn’t what I want to be: soft, calm, spend my days in goodness (as much as possible- the cynic in me says!) with a mind at peace, and a heart filled with innocent love.

Softness, calmness, peace, innocence, love (compassion) all come with mindful practice, with awareness of each moment, with forgiving oneself for each moment of violence and cynicism (in thought, and in action.) Man, woman, child– the most important thing is that tranquil space inside the mind, the silence and slow-soft rhythm of breath, a rhythm that flows and beats through all of us, human, animal, plant, rock, river, planet.

For the past year or so, been trying (unsuccessfully) to remain aware of that rhythm at all times. The body is most in harmony with it when writing fiction, when in sympathy, empathy and identification with someone ‘other’, a being of my imagination, so the ‘I’ floats away, and becomes a gentle drumbeat.

That’s what has drawn my body and soul into writing fiction, this practice that feels almost like meditation. Compared to this, the ‘thrill’ of acceptance or publication is short-lived, mundane. On some days, reading a good line by another author makes everything else seem trivial.

What about you? Does fiction take you outside of you? Does it bring you harmony and rhythm? Do you walk in Beauty?

Walking with Tina– Do You Believe Life is Good?


Sunflowers for Tina

Sunflowers for Tina

For the coming week, Daily (w)rite ‘s header would remain a field of sunflowers, in honor of Tina Downey, my friend, fellow blogger, and Sister in Spirit.

Today, on the 8th of September, the blogging world is coming together to celebrate Tina’s life, and all that she stood for– beauty, brightness, good cheer in the face of all kinds of odds. This is the Sunflower Blogfest, folks, for a woman who adored sunflowers. Sign up if you haven’t already.

If you knew Tina, send her a tribute. If you didn’t know her, celebrate anyway– because joy needs to be celebrated now, today, every moment. Tina embodied that spirit of Taking joy in small things, and smiling through suffering.

For as long as I’ve known her, she’s struggled with her health– and she has never let that stand in the way of life, family, church, friendships, blogging, creative writing, or gardening– she did it all with a snark and a ready smile.

Tina and I spoke often, and every once in a while we spoke of visiting each other. I’ve never been to the USA and she’d never been to Singapore– so between Colorado and Singapore, we exchanged snapshots and dreams.

Tina Downey's Sunflower in SIngapore

In Singapore, with Tina Downey

I know that I still want to visit the United States, and if I do, I would like to spend an hour beside a field of sunflowers, soaking in the sun, remembering Tina’s voice, the one that always sounded so happy to hear mine– even on the days she had a hard time breathing.

I wrote about Tina and my swimming pool in my other blog, and on this one, I have this to say: Never ever postpone a plan to meet friends or family. I had planned a trip to surprise Tina this year.

But instead, I have this photo above, of my sunflower.

This is the view from my balcony, the view we would have shared, had Tina visited me, like she’d talked about doing, so many times.

I could have had other photos, different ones, had I made it to Colorado last year.

But I shall not shed tears.

“When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.” ~Khalil Gibran

Until we meet again, dear Tina. Life is always Good, and I believe it, in part, because of you.

(Tina’s family has set up the Downey Education Fund for Tina’s sons, if you’d like to donate, the way I and some others have done, the Donate link is given below. If you want the code for a badge on your own blog, drop me a line at atozstories at gmail dot com)

Donate to the Downey Education Fund

Donate to the Downey Education Fund

Would you all celebrate Tina with us?

Do you believe, the way I do, that no matter what, Life is Good?

Do you have to be intelligent to be evil?


A question like “do you have to be intelligent to be evil” can seem philosophical and vague, but it becomes less theoretical when you apply it to a death penalty court case like the one that has played out in Georgia. Must there be a conniving, Machiavellian mind behind evil, or is it something inherent in anyone — or everyone?

…..At the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s department of cognitive science, a research team explored the logic of evil by programming a computer character named “E” that “acted on” or was motivated by a definition of evil. The Rensselaer crew defined an evil person as one who decided to commit an immoral act without prompting and carry out the plan with the expectation of considerable harm. When reflecting on those deeds, the person would either find incoherent reasons for his or her actions or think the damage caused was good.

….Trying to get an objective answer about evil or intelligence is never going to work. We all have too many inherent prejudices and biases to ever get a response that satisfies us. But looking at something like Dr. Welner’s Depravity Scale does lead me to believe that critical thinking about intelligence and evil does have a purpose in our society: if we’re ever asked to use our own definitions of what is evil and intelligent to judge someone’s actions, we better have a compelling reason to believe our own opinions.

Hakone Open Air Museum

Intelligence and Evil

 

That was an excerpt from an article I read the other day, and though it goes on to talk about insanity pleas and so on, it reminded me of what weighs on all our minds.

Like a lot of us, I’ve been watching Gaza, and also the Malaysian plane shot down in Ukraine.

Since I can’t do anything else to help this world gone mad, where children are murdered (while they play on a beach or fly 33,000 ft above the earth towards a vacation or their homes), I try to gather positive energies. If the world goes negative, the only thing in my small, insignificant hands is to be positive. I can only add myself to the sum total of positive energies in this world, and thus stand against the negatives.

But somehow, I wonder whether the intelligence that has given us humans such an advantage in evolution would one day be our undoing. (Even in the animal world, it is the dolphins who rape, the chimpanzees who murder– is evil a function of intelligence quotient, after all?)

What do you think? Is what’s happening in the war-torn areas of the world a result of intelligence gone mad? Other than ranting and fighting virtual wars on Facebook, how can we as human beings help undo this horrific situation?

Are You Really Dead When They Say You Are?


The Evolution of Death

The Evolution of Death

What is the one certainty of life? Death, right? But it is the least discussed of topics. People call you morbid, negative, depressed if you talk about it.

To me, since we’ve all got to face it some day, what’s the harm in touching on it once in a while?

I recently came across an article that talks about the moment of death, and what fascinated me was that the scientific community is still uncertain about the exact moment of death:

 “Most of us would agree that King Tut and the other mummified ancient Egyptians are dead, and that you and I are alive. Somewhere in between these two states lies the moment of death. But where is that? The old standby — and not such a bad standard — is the stopping of the heart. But the stopping of a heart is anything but irreversible. We’ve seen hearts start up again on their own inside the body, outside the body, even in someone else’s body. Christian Barnard was the first to show us that a heart could stop in one body and be fired up in another.

As I went on to read it, I was intrigued by the concept of life residing in various parts of the human body, not just in the brain or heart: (Warning: this gets a little gory)

“What’s alive and what’s dead breaks down when we get above the cellular level,” Sorenson says. “Pathologists don’t feel comfortable that a brain is dead until the cell walls break down. True cell death is a daylong process.”

…Cell death is far removed from brain death. As shown, brain death can be declared when only a few brain cells have actually died. Cells in the remainder of the body are alive and kicking. Brain-dead patients being sustained as beating-heart cadavers are still supplying most of their body’s cells with blood and thus oxygen, so total cell death is nowhere in sight. Cell death begins in earnest when the heart stops beating and the lungs cease to breathe. No longer being pumped through the body, the blood will drain from the blood vessels at the top of the body and collect in the lower part. The upper body will become pale, the lower body turning much darker, looking bruised. This is livor mortis.

Even at this point, however, most cells are still not dead. After the heart stops, brain cells will die in a few minutes. Muscle cells can hold on for several hours, and skin and bone cells can stay alive for days. Cells switch from aerobic (with oxygen) respiration to anaerobic (without oxygen) when the blood stops circulating. A by-product of anaerobic respiration is lactic acid, which is what makes your arm muscles hurt during arm wrestling or your legs hurt during a hard run. When you are alive, your blood flow clears out the acid, but in a dead person the body stiffens. This is rigor mortis. Rigor mortis usually begins about three hours after the heart stops and lasts thirty-six hours. Eventually all of the cells die. After rigor mortis come initial decay, putrefaction, black putrefaction, and butyric fermentation. Somewhere in these processes — taking as long as a year, depending on the conditions and the weather — is a moment of death. Where that is may be impossible to determine.

To get a better picture of what I’m talking about, read the article– because it talks not just about the moment of death, but the question of selfhood, and how important human beings really are, are we the ultimate in evolution?

Do you ever wonder about death? Do we think more about death as we grow older? What is death, really? What is the moment of death? Are you really dead when they say you are?

Are Mistakes Such Terrible Things?


I’m taking a break from my blog, and in the time I’m away, Kate McManus has kindly offered to write me a post. This blog talks about questions surrounding life and writing, and I think the questions she asks in this post fit in neatly with my take on writing, life, and everything else in between.

Take it away, Kate!

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“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”

George Bernard Shaw

Mistakes in Writing

Mistakes in Writing

We don’t like them and twist ourselves inside out to avoid them. But are mistakes such terrible things ? It goes back to early conditioning in childhood. We are told there is a right and a wrong way to approach a task. It’s a simple framework our society provides to keep us from the stress and chaos of having to make our own decisions before we have developed that capacity. It’s something we need to outgrow and as we mature, come to appreciate that everything is multifaceted and can be both wrong and right at the same time.

“Why did I do that? I knew it wasn’t going to work out” A friend once exclaimed to me after going on a holiday- which produced another destructive romantic fling.To heal deep patterns in our life, it’s sometimes necessary to repeat them in order to gain the clarity and consciousness which will manifest permanent change. Most of our patterns are built unconsciously over time and so require this deep level of commitment to awareness of the triggers which produce the mistakes or errors of judgement. In this case, a repetitive mistake can become a healing tool, a portal to new life

To fully access our creative imagination, we have to let go of the right/wrong, rational /linear paradigm. Writing is one big mistake to which we apply the remedy of editing so that it can make sense to our readers. As Ernest Hemingway perspicaciously once said “The first draft of anything is shit.” Struggling for perfection in the early stages of writing is sadomasochistic and ultimately unproductive. Let the mistakes flow! Can you imagine the first draft of James Joyce “Ulysses” ?

Mistakes when you travel can produce fortunate adventures; It’s the mistake which makes your journey unique. That time when you wandered away from the planned route and discovered a completely different part of a city. Mistakes are a large part of the road less travelled.

Is life itself a mistake? Cosmologists now advise us us about the serendipitous evolution of human life; it’s inherent impossibility and fragility which evolved into the dominant life force on the planet.What a happy accident for all of us on planet earth!

Kate McManus travel blogger

Kate McManus

Kate is a blogger, writer, astrologer and healer, who travels around Australia doing house sitting. As an animal lover, she enjoys the companionship of all kinds of pets as she explores different parts of the country. Kate applies an understanding of the Astrological Archetypes to her life and travels. In between house sits, she likes to visit her family and two grandchildren in Canberra.

You can visit her blog at http://www.lightravellerkate.wordpress.com and Facebook page “The Conscious Cosmic Traveller ”

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So, what’s your reaction when you realize you’ve made a mistake? How do you treat someone who’s made a mistake– a friend, a partner, a spoude, a sibling, a child, a parent? Is there a mistake you’re glad you made?

Do You Swim Free?


Swimming free of the hourglass

Breaking out of the Hourglass

I don’t know about other parts of my life, but when it comes to writing, I hate comfort zones.

I like to swim free, break the bounds of my aquarium.

The minute I’ve figured out a way to say something, a bit of craft or technique, I start searching for other ways. When I think I know enough about a character, I let him or her go in search of new ones.

I’ve read authors who hash the same thing over and over, who keep milking a premise or an idea till I know I don’t need to read any more of their books. I know what their next book would be about, and the next. While there is comfort in familiarity, there is no excitement. And my sedate self likes adventure when it comes to reading and writing.

Sometimes I feel like a particle of sand trapped in an hourglass, rising and falling in the same confined space– and that’s when I break out, write in a different genre, try an experimental narrative structure, read an anthology of poetry from cover to cover.

So do you like breaking out of the hourglass? Do you believe in smoking new words for a different pipe dream?