ALL OF US: Americans Talk About the Meaning of Death
CONSIDERING THE GREAT MYSTERY OF LIFE AND DEATH
For most of us in the West, as we cope with the demands of modern life, the reality of death can seem muted, unreal, almost irrelevant. And yet, every world religion and philosophy teaches that the question of death is the basis of all our questions, and that coming to terms with death is the basis of all understanding.
What does this mean for us today? How do we consider death in a culture impatient with dying, repulsed by aging, and at war with the natural world? Do traditional answers still work for us or are we moving toward a new view of death? What do we really think and feel about the one sure thing facing all of us?
EXCERPTS FROM ALL OF US:
"In western medicine, there is absolutely no thought given to the importance of your state of consciousness at the moment of death. Personally it's one of the great concerns that I have and people I know have. It's such an important question: When you are dying, what do you want your state of consciousness to be?"
"We may very well be among the last members of our species ever to die. In the next century we're going to solve the riddle of this genetic biochemical machine that is our body and remove from death all that ultimately irrelevant baggage having to do with chemical degradation and then focus on the kind of death that we really live with moment by moment, as we change inside. Once you begin to feel the minute by minute death of your own personality, the death of the body is almost a diversion."
"The concept of spirit, and the continuation of spirit beyond death, is fundamental to Native American belief and the ritual that occurs at death is very important. These rituals work and that's why we pass them on from generation to generation. They've been shaped like a pebble is shaped by the waters of a river and those things that are not really important have been washed away. These ceremonies have been shaped by the waters of time. They give permission, permission to say: "This is important, this means something, this is a time to stop and pay attention to death."