This latest semi-coherent rambling comes in response to the comments at BurningBird’s place here, and some comments made by AKMA here. I apologize if it is facile – I just wanted to get some partly-formed ideas off my chest.
In the comments at ‘Bird’s place, Mike Golby mentions something about Mike Sanders redubbing ‘warbloggers’ ‘lifebloggers’. I couldn’t find any reference to this phrase at Mike Sanders’ blog, so I won’t pursue the dissonance of that equivalence (*ting* the tiny echoes of the phrase ‘moral equivalence’ might now be playing about your mental shell-likes) any further. It may have just been a brainfart on Mike Golby’s part. (But if a warblogger is somehow a ‘lifeblogger’, then mark me down as a deathblogger. Tangentially, does anyone else notice the slow shift of the meaning of the neologism ‘warblogger’ to mean a blogger who supports and cheerleads military killing, by someone or anyone, rather than just someone whose main topic of blogging is things to do with the current American War on Terra? Or maybe that’s just me…)
I don’t say ‘deathblogger’ simply to be contrarian, though such is my tendency. I regard death as less of a Nemesis than many, for reasons stemming from experiences in my young life rather than religious faith, and I do think that some large component of the irrational, deeply-felt response people have to things like the current sh-tstorm over in the eastern mediterranean comes directly from a horror and fear of Death. Isn’t that odd?
Apologies to AKMA may be in order, but : if these people, in the middle east and Ireland and elsewhere, who are killing one another as much because of their religious beliefs as mundane matters of territory and bloody revenge, if they are indeed so devout…well, it strikes me then that their respective religions teach them that their bloodthirsty righteousness will be rewarded in an afterlife of some kind, no?
AKMA says :
This may indeed be the case, but it seems to me in practice that the ‘thou shalt not kill’ edict has often been, and still is relaxed, by the man (and woman) on the street, is it not, when it comes to killing in the name of God? Leaders both religious and secular invoke the name of whichever almighty they imagine to be their benefactor, to strike down the enemy, to lend strength to their killers out on the bloody plain. The people who listen to these leaders take up their guns and cudgels secure in the knowledge that smashing the skulls of their enemies or putting bullets through their hearts are actions mandated and approved by their deity and his representatives on Earth. We’re talking about the reality of belief here, not the ideal. I assume this is somehow mystically reconciled in their minds with the ‘God is Love’ mantra of more peaceful times – call it Tough Love, I guess.
I say this not to ridicule Christian belief. I find the metaphors embedded in the faith, as in others, to be rich and rewarding. Though countless lives have been lost in the name of God and Christ, Mohammed and Allah, countless deeds of mercy and kindness have been performed, as well.
But back to the Fear of Death. I’ve always thought it odd, and it’s always been one of the things that I couldn’t really get my head around, when it came to Christianity : it seems hard for a devout Christian to justify anything other than feelings of joy when a presumably heaven-bound relative makes the Big Swan Dive into the abyss. There’s self-pity, of course, or fear for a more lonely, or poorer, future here amongst the living. These grief-triggers I understand. But I have a little difficulty understanding grief unleavened with what should be happiness for the deceased, for the spirit drawn unto the bosom of the Lord, among the devout.
The ritual wailing and moaning, the tearing out of hair, the sackcloth and ashes that some cultures indulge in as a ritual response to death : these, I understand, too, as catharsis, as closure. Ritual response to events of great magnitude in our lives help us to cope with those events without thinking too much about them, and help to incorporate those events in the fabric of our community.
I catch a scent of the ritual response to death in the response to the killing in the Middle East at the moment.
There is, as always, division into camps amongst the not-very-clever : Side A is right! No, you bastard, Side B is right! Amongst others, there is a weary acceptance that both warring sides are right, and amongst a subgroup of those, an awareness that both sides are also equally wrong. But even within this camp, there are those who call for warfare and those who call for ‘peace’. There are also a large number who, through laziness or bodhisattva-like equanimity, through utter misanthropy or through dirt-stick-stone stupidity, via ‘good’ or ‘evil’ intention, modulate their outrage, or accept what is as inevitable and thus good.
There are some who believe that the raging, naked ape in us will keep the tribes at each other’s throats for a good long time, if not until the last of our species stands over the lifeless body of the unlucky penultimate one, triumphant. There are some who would welcome ‘peace’, who would work for it each day of their lives, who are also certain that it is a chimera.
There are those who see the arguments among the observers as fractal, self-similar meta-examples of the bloodletting amongst the combatants, and grow more pessimistic about there ever being an end to warfare.
The question is this, perhaps : whether a life spent working for this idea of ‘peace’, always aware that such a goal may never be reached, in one’s own lifetime or beyond, is a life well-spent.