Discussing death is somewhat of a taboo in modern life: we just don’t really talk about it. Somewhat understandably, it is rather grim. It’s much easier to talk about inane personal details such as how much someone earns or how much their house is worth. When someone does start talking or thinking about death, we start questioning whether there is something wrong with that person: are they okay, are they going to kill themselves?
I enjoyed reading The New Manhood by Steve Biddulph where he talks about this exact issue. He explains how in more tribal times death was a key part of life, and there was much more exposure to death and dead bodies through rituals, burials and ceremonies. It was more tactile and therefore people knew it was inevitable.
Case in point: twice a year Kitty and I attend Lifeline Bookfest where we get large piles of second hand children’s books for Junior Pixels and Little Bear to read. The thing we love about these books are they’re not the ones you see for sale in the shops: a lot of them are from the seventies and eighties. One thing Kitty observed is how they’re generally darker than new books being released today: there’s more death.
In November last year I dislocated my patellar (knee cap). It was the worst pain I have ever experienced, especially during the twenty five odd minutes it took for ambulance to arrive, give me the green whistle and relocate my patellar. I thought I was going to die, and strangely, until that moment, I never actually realized I would at some point die.
It dramatically changed my whole outlook on life (and death). I realized I needed to be healthier. I completely gave up drinking soft drinks and alcohol (not that I ever was a regular drinker: more of the occasional social binge), and gave up eating sugary foods.
The first two weeks of zero caffeinated soft drinks were hard, but I drank green tea instead and I can’t remember feeling healthier. My trip to Austin in March was the first time I have ever been able to sleep soundly on a plane (not being completely wired on caffeine).
Seven months later I don’t miss the soft drinks one bit and I enjoy being sober all the time as I’ve never had clearer thoughts or been able to sleep so easily. After a knee operation and a long recovery of physiotherapy, my knee is also mostly better.
Through my experience I realised what death actually is and while that it is inevitable for us all: I don’t want to die. I want to be healthy because there is so much to live for.