Death destroys a man … November 15, 2016

“As it is, we must hold to other things, because Death is coming. 
I love death – not morbidly, but because He explains. 
He shows me the emptiness of Money.
Death and Money are the eternal foes.  Not Death and Life …
Death destroys a man: the idea of Death saves him. 
Behind the coffins and the skeletons that stay the vulgar mind, lies something so immense
that all that is great in us responds to it.”

E.M. Forster, Howards End, 2002.

There is much ado these days about coffins and skeletons, and using death-related insignia for cause and effect in promoting death awareness, which I too occasionally get caught up in, but when I find that happening I bring to mind that one sentence from Forsters text, “Behind the coffins and the skeletons that stay the vulgar mind, lies something so immense that all that is great in us responds to it.”

These are words laden with meaning and complexity, and worth pondering.  What is it that Forster is referring to?  What is that immensity that all that is great in us responds to?  What lays beyond the vulgar mind, which is all too often satisfied with the drossy excitement of life?  The drama of it? The ‘wow’ of it?  The ephemeral shallowness of it?

Eastern teachings tell us that the material world, and we ourselves, are impermanent, and that the only permanence is change.  Yet Eastern teachings also tell us that this can be overcome, that something in us can become permanent, that something in us can transcend this state of affairs.  How do we understand ‘permanence’?  What is ‘permanent’?  And how can we become something other than what and how we know ourselves to be.

Does it have something to do with Forster’s ‘immensity’?  And is there something innately in us, buried deeply within, slumbering perhaps, that is waiting for us to acknowledge its presence?  Could it be that Forster’s immensity calls to us and yearns for us, yet at the same time is denied by us?

And in the solitude of silence the answer comes.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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