Archives for Existential Givens
I just bought this bunch of everlasting daisies from the cemetery florist. It seems more than a little ironic… For wandering between the old, sunken headstones out here, the knowledge of the temporary nature of things – of life – sinks in a little deeper. How we like to forget this… to remain hidden from it in the everyday. Shielded. If you believed the stronger messages and myths that our (western) society spins, you’d think that youth can last forever (if only you buy the right face cream or get the right surgery or adopt the right frame of mind). But the hundreds upon hundreds of graves out here all tell a different story. What price might we pay, collectively, to do this to ourselves? And what might it be costing you (and your loved ones) if you stay hidden from the thought of your own death? From the impending truth of it?
I was wandering through a cemetery by the sea the other day. A strange thing to do on a weekend, perhaps, but I was searching for inspiration for a guest post on The Daily Undertaker’s blog. (It’s tempting to say that I found it in spades, but that sounds a little too gruesome). What I did find was a certain curiosity which seems to hover above all the graveyards I’ve ever visited – a cloud of questions that you may recognize, too: What does it mean to die? What actually happens then? And so, in light of that, what does it mean to live? Where might spirituality factor into this (or not)? How are these things connected (or not)? And how can we learn from all of this, somehow, and enrich our days, while we have them yet? Sometimes these things almost seem too big to fit into a paradigm like therapy. Yet these are exactly the kinds of questions which existential therapy asks of us. In the hope of uncovering a richer, more meaningful life, it wants us to peer into our death as an ‘existential given’ – a thing we can’t escape. Something that, like gravity, just seems to be a part of the deal. So what might it feel like for you to peer into that space?
The footpaths were littered with camellia blossoms this morning, as I walked around the streets. Perfect pink blooms dropped onto the pavement. I heard a saying, once, about this phenomenon. These flowers, falling mid-bloom from the tree, echoes the way we’ll all fall from the tree of life one day. Unexpectedly (even when it’s expected). And often with a sense of ‘too soon.’ So how might we prepare for this? Are there things that could make it easier when our time (inevitably) comes? And what might our death actually have to teach us about living?