Additional thoughts on the unpleasant question I posed in this weeks Wednesdays with Wendell:
How do we make death an integral part of our definition of health, which we refer to daily, without becoming morbid?
It occurs to me that the way I asked the question itself suggests an answer. Why do we have to make death a part of our definition of health? In the early days, it would have been impossible to separate it. We were under constant attack. From other creatures, from the elements, from nature itself, as well as from our own bodies. We have effectively controlled the first three. Of those only the elements strike at us without effective resistance. The fourth continues to plague us. Therefore, the greatest threat to us at this moment in time is ourselves. I’m speaking about our health of course, but perhaps, it might be applicable in other areas of our life as well. We are our own greatest threat.
The medical industry has successfully helped us to conquer many diseases that previously would have destroyed us and helped us to live longer lives than ever before. The question begs itself, if we are living longer lives, then what are we doing with that extra time? If you are someone who looks to capitalism for the answer, then I assume you think building material wealth is the answer. I mean, why not? We got this health thing all figured out right?
You’re motivated to connect. But promiscuous connection with others can lead to death. A neural mechanism kicks in to make you a little skeptical or dubious about connecting.
In this article, the relationship between isolation and death become obvious. Death is the obvious result of cutting yourself off from valuable community. I mean “death” in both the physical and spiritual sense. And yet we are offered more and more technology that allows us do things alone that we used to have to depend on others for. A fear of relying on others appear to be driving this particular segment of our innovative sector.
I’m the first to admit depending on people can be scary. Especially if you’re not used to doing it. The smallest disappointments can seem like total disasters if you’ve put all your emotional eggs into one human basket.
In this light though, he fact that death is not a part of our daily definition of health is not a surprise. It is actually a side effect of how we have built our societies and set up our lives. Perhaps, integrating death into our definition of health is not an intellectual pursuit, but one that depends on our physical presence and taking actions that help us participate in a community.
I am confident there are no articles that can tell us how to do this, for ourselves. Not even Wendell Berry can tell me how to become a part of a community in Duarte, California. And I raise the question, can I even become a part of a community I care about here? Can anyone become a part of any community? Or must one put oneself in a position to become a part of a community? The idea of an individual deciding to become a part of a community then doing it seems a bit stupid to me, but perhaps it’s possible.
If your old community is unavailable to you, the door to a new, authentic community can only be opened with humility.