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Reinventing death

There is an acute need to reinvent death. For too long, humans have suffered from anxiety and fear around end of life. Religions, hierarchical structures, medical science and intellectuals have exploited the grief and sense of loss. For centuries, uncertainty around the process of dying forced leaders and thinkers to come up with some explanation about the natural phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the solutions proposed added to the negative thinking, fear and darkness. Concepts of hell, sin, torture, punishment and painful death reinforced the anxiety.

Great collective and individual human effort has gone into activities primarily designed to prevent death. Invention of fire and agriculture were basic tools which prevented untimely death. Clothes, safe places to sleep, easy access to basic life needs were all invented to prolong life and improve its quality.

The desire to live longer, or perhaps forever, has driven humans to invent great things. The science of medicine as a whole is a tool devised primarily to keep people alive as long as possible. Prevention, cure, regeneration and prosthetic techniques have developed into a large industry and thrives on the desire to live longer, healthier and better-looking lives. However, every time a person dies, medicine now thinks it is a failure of science.

The doctor has a problem in letting go a patient at the appropriate time. In the end, the person will go as nature decides. But before that, medicine is capable of doing significant damage to his or her dignity and well-being.

Facts of death are largely unknown. So are facts about god and religion. The combination has created an ever more fearful ambience. Enigma of death, in a way, is the root cause for the stranglehold of religion over society and a source for the invention of god. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the doctor we see, and the scripture we read, all were primarily invented to either prevent death or address the fear of it.

Death and species

For the survival of the species, death is an absolute essential. Without clearing out the old and the birth of the new, the genetic selection and survival of the fittest will not be possible. There won’t be any evolution. So, for nature, recycling of individuals creating newer breeds and recycling elements to make them is an essential activity. That theory can apply to the human species at the intellectual level as well. Without recycling of individuals, world will be full of same thought and personalities. Every new generation comes with a new set of ideas, skills and genetic make-up and life keeps evolving.

People living longer and having fewer progeny can’t be advantageous to the progress of the species. The alternation of death and birth, is the pulse beat for the species.

There were dark clouds of depression and anxiety related to COVID-19 in the U.K. Yet, the fear of death and the determination to overcome it, collectively as a nation, made some impossible things happen. The first Nightingale Hospital in London was built in nine days. The “sense of time” death injects in humans and its power are enormous.

k.shanbhag@live.co.uk

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 5:01:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/reinventing-death/article33536074.ece

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