Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Resituating the context of Death

“I began to see death as a great travelling companion who is always sitting by my side saying: ‘I am going to touch you and you don’t know when, so don’t stop living as intensely as you can.’ That is why I never leave for tomorrow what I can live today.”
-Paulo Coelho in ‘The Asian Age’ (30th Jul, 05)

Paulo Coelho is a serious exception. We rather think in terms of not-dying. The basic thinking happens in terms of living and living more & more. In ‘modern’ times, living is a much discussed, debated and pampered subject. Both living for self and living for others gets so much attention that the whole exercise never comes out of the confines of a narcisstic project. The word ‘living” is actually less of a word and more of a phrase. It is always imagined in the sense of ‘living for’ or ‘living towards’. This phrasal connotation is not an accidental matter; it is the result of quite subconscious attempts of ours at building a life-world in which death is subtracted thoroughly and permanently.
Death may be a significant point of strength but living constructed around death is a vastly ignored phenomenon. It might have hit news headlines whenever some gory incidents occurred in Gaza, Baghdad, Kabul or Kashmir but the horror and not the creative element of death keeps looming large over such journalistic pieces. Life and death are regarded as so powerfully antagonistic forces in the public realm that to imagine dying in a creative sense carries a remote possibility. The public construction of living is so absolute that it is almost equivalent of a myth that pulsates through the spatial transformations and diachronic changes in the conceptual methods of people. It becomes a qualifying mark of fulfillment for the individuals of that period.
A myth might be a falsehood but the main point is not its falsehood rather it is the force and the weight it carries in a historical sense. It works through branching out via metaphors and symbols. The architectural manufacturing of space in form of multiplexes, mega shopping malls & multi-storeyed buildings and housing complexes has grown so symbolically into our thinking that an idea of death-yard around is callously absent. In some rural areas of Kerala, people used to bury their dead in their back courtyard. Today, we don’t even have houses with a true courtyard; what to talk of back not even in the front. If there is any space for that, it has been replaced with a porsche in the front and servant’s quarter in the back. The spatial progress of our housing sense has turned singularly in favor of living. Dying is neither adjusted nor provided any admissible space.
Dying is relegated to the level of something abominable. It is seen as co-terminus with decaying. It is a wonder that everybody knows about the inevitability of death but life is still considered only living and not dying. Yudhishtra’s answer to Yaksha stands the test of all times. This sustainable wonder is a result of consistent denial of the fundamental reality of life i.e. death, of anybody and anything that lives. Instead of an interactive face-off, living becomes a matter of begging or an escaping attempt in front of death. This denial has always trapped humanity in its course; it has always clouded its vision; it has always weakened its spirit of action. It has remained intact though transformed in all ages. History has been witness to its bitter lessons. The South Asian sub-continent is no exception to it. A thousand years of slavery, anarchic decimation of healthy and self-sufficient habitat systems and the eventual balkanization of the entire cultural space called India have been the main benchmarks of this period of denial.


sarbjot said...

Difficult but interesting

sarbjot said...

It is true that living and dying are two sides of a coin called life...Death is an inevitable phenomenon.Everyone wants to close their eyes with a view of death,as by this way they can escape from it.But in reality we are facing this death in form of dying relationships, death of hopes and aspirations in our so called living world.And this death is more tragic than physical death of a human being.Man always want to escape the thing which is inpredictable, but in this he always carrying forward with his sight straight towards future but donot care to live his present wholeheartedly.The words of Paulo Coelho provides the real / living spirit of the phenomenon called death.And gives the slogan of living present more intensively.

harpreet said...
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harpreet said...

Dont you think Sunil that the very act of 'living for' and 'living towards' is actually a human's desperate and a significant run towards this chimera, this final event called Death. He wants it all to himself but the supreme knowledge of being still alive, still alive... that is why this 'living for' and 'living towards.